Amping up athletes: Design and implementation of a mental skills program for varsity athletes


Mental skills programs have been shown to provide numerous benefits to athletes of many sports, in a variety of facets including training, practice, competition, and injury recovery (Behncke, 2004; Hamson-Utley, Martin, & Walters, 2008). The Athlete Mental Performance (AMP) program was developed to provide athletes with psychological skills designed to enhance their performance in and out of competition. The program consisted of sessions that explained the theory behind psychological skill and allowed in the moment practice. Imagery, self-talk, goal-setting, anxiety management, pre-performance routines, and athletic identity sessions provided athletes with the building blocks they needed to improve their performance. The AMP team consisted of 3 graduate students, and a faculty supervisor. Through collaboration with coaches and athletic therapists at their University, the AMP team worked directly with members of men's football, women's lacrosse, and men's and women's curling. The team also facilitated drop-in sessions which attracted athletes from swimming, golf, women's basketball, and track and field. Sessions were 45 minutes in length and were divided into explanation and practice portions. Through the AMP program, athletes received in-group and one-on-one support to help them develop a greater understanding of their athletic abilities and were supported through their psychological skills development to enhance their overall athletic performance. Through feedback from the athletes and athletic therapists, and collaboration within the AMP team, the program has seen exponential growth in its first year, creating community partnerships to further expand the program and to support athletes and outside of the university athletics community.