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Periodization Of Mental Training!

If you fail to plan the development of your athletes properly, you will not be able to maximize their potential. Here is an introduction on how to improve performance factors with the periodization of mental training.


For decades, there has been an old saying that read as follows:

"If you don't know where you going, don't be surprised to arrive somewhere else."

In terms of sports performance, that means if you fail to plan the development of your athletes properly, you will not be able to maximize their potential.

The planning process in sports is called "Periodization". In the next few months, I will introduce you to the periodization of various performance factors or in other words, how to plan the development of these factors. This article will address the periodization of mental training.


What Is Periodization?

Periodization is the art and the science of planning and integrating all training components (technical, tactical, physical and tactical) and performance factors (speed, strength, power, endurance, agility, nutrition, recovery, etc.) into a sequence that will optimize the development of an athlete, lead to peak performance while avoiding plateau and overtraining.

Mental Training

Why Should Mental Training Be Incorporated Into Yearly Training Planning?

Just like any skill, mental skills need to be learned, refined and mastered. In order to be able to use them in competition, athletes need to train them in conditions similar to those of competition.

A skill is a skill no matter whether it is a psychological or a technical skill, time and practice is required before it can be used in competition. A careful planning of the mental training of your athletes will maximize the development of their mental abilities and maximize their performance.

Simply put, problems can occur if mental training is not integrated with the athlete's other training activities. Failure to provide mental-training programs that are consistent with the ups and downs of training cycles and the competitive season can lower motivation and self-confidence, increase anxiety, and probably lower athletic performance.

Review Of Periodization Concept
Period/Phase General Objectives
General: Develop basic technical skills and general fitness
Specific: Perfect technique and basic tactics, develop sport-specific fitness
Pre-competitive: Make training competition-specific, raise intensity
Competitive: Maximize competitive performance
Tapering: Regenerate in preparation for main competition
Get active rest, maintain training gains

What is a Periodization approach to mental training?

It refers to integrating mental training into the yearly training plan in such a way that the mental training objectives for each period and phase are compatible with objectives of the other training component.

A Periodization Approach To Mental Training

    Basic mental skills
    Sport-specific mental skills
    Individual competition strategies

The Goal

What is the goal of mental training?

The goal in mental training is to develop the tools, skills and mental abilities needed to reach an Ideal Performance State (IPS).

The Ideal Performance State (IPS) is the mental state at which the athlete performs at its best. This is the stage where everything flows; everything is easy; you are in the zone with confidence to achieve your mission with nothing to stop you of reaching your goals. Mental skills are developed in order to help the athlete get into that zone or get back into that zone.

Progression In The Development Of Mental-Training Skills

    Positive Environment
    Emotional Control
    Attentional Control
    Development of Strategies
    Application of Skills and Strategies

    Positive Environment

    • Plan for long-term involvement in sport
    • Offer multiple incentives
    • Set goals
    • Develop team harmony
    • Communicate effectively

    Develop Emotional Control

    • Understand activation, how it affects performance and how it relates to emotional control (i.e. U-Inverted theory)
    • Develop energizing skills
    • Develop relaxation skills

    Develop Attentional Control

    • Understand attentional control
    • Develop concentration
    • Develop visualization
    • Develop refocusing

    Developing Pre-competition & Competition Strategies

    • Understand concept of IPS
    • Identify IPS
    • Develop a pre-competition strategy to evoke and maintain their IPS
    • Develop a competition strategy to evoke and maintain their IPS

    Applying Skills & Strategies

    • Emphasize individual programs
    • Encourage athletes to use visualization
    • Incorporate mental-training skills and strategies into practices
    • Continually evaluate skills and strategies in competitions

Periodization Of Mental Skills

Periodization Of A Mental Skill

    Introduction to the skill (Explain concept)

    Development of the skill in a quiet setting
    Incorporation of the skill in sport specific situation (Specific application)
    Refinement of the skill in training and in preparatory competition
    Integration of the skill in strategies of competition
    Use of the skill in competition to achieve ISP

Example: Visualization

    Visualization concept
    Specific application

    Some of the mental skills:

    1. Visualization
    2. Concentration
    3. Self-Talk
    4. Relaxation
    5. Energizing (activation)

Periodization Of Other Components Of Sport Psychology

    Team Building



      Leadership concept
      Development of leadership


      Confidence concept

      Building confidence
      Learn to deal w/ mistakes
      Slump fighting strategies
      Rebuilding confidence strategies


      Motivation assessment

      Development of motivation
      Self-motivation techniques
      Monitor & maintain

    Goal Setting

      Goal setting concept
      Set goals
      Monitor goals
      Review Goals

    Pre-competition and Competition Strategies (PCS)

      ISP Concept

      Identify ISP
      Development of PCS

Integrating Mental Training Into The Periodization

The design of the mental-training component of the yearly training plan should parallel that of the physical, technical and tactical training component. Objectives of each component - including mental training - should be closely parallel with the general objectives of each period/phase.

Objectives Of Each Phase Of Training
Period/Phase General Objectives Mental-training objectives
General Develop basic technical skills and general fitness
  • Evaluate mental skills
  • Learn basic mental skills in quiet setting
  • Specific Perfect technique and basic tactics, develop sport-specific fitness
  • Adapt and practise mental skills in sport-specific situations
  • Use mental skills to help attain training objectives
  • Refine mental skills
  • Competitive
    Pre-competitive Make training competition specific, raise intensity
  • Develop and practise focus plan*
  • Use focus plan* in simulations
  • Maintain basic mental skills
  • Competitive Maximize competitive performance
  • Evaluate and refine focus plan
  • Use mental skills to prepare for specific opponents and competitions
  • Use mental skills for stress management
  • Tapering Regenerate in preparation for main competition
  • Use mental skills to aid regeneration and lower stress
  • Transition
    Get active rest, maintain training gains
  • Do recreational activities to maintain fitness and prevent staleness
  • Evaluate program
  • * A focus plan is a combination of pre-competition and competition strategies.


    A plan remains a plan. It is a guide that leads in the right direction. Just like a road map, it helps in getting from point A to point B. However, you will come across obstacles or roadblocks where you will have no choice but modify and adapt your plan to keep moving forward.

    It is what planning and integrating is all about; being able to develop a solid plan and have the flexibility to adapt it when required. Softball being such a mental game, a well-designed mental training plan will, without a doubt, contribute in enhancing performance on the field.

    About The Author:

    Marc Dagenais, B.Sc., MHK, CSCS, is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Personal Trainer in addition to working as an assistant softball coach for Simon Fraser University. He also runs a website on performance enhancement, training and conditioning for softball - He can be reached at