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Mindset Matters 1: elevate performance

Updated: Apr 29

elevate your performance by training your mind

Welcome to our first blog at HeadStart. Today we will explore the benefits of training your mind and developing mental skills. We will discover why training your mind creates a lasting positive impact in you and elevates your performance (both on and off the pitch). 

Before we get into the reasons why training your mind to develop mental skills is beneficial for you, lets quickly discover more about what mental skills are. 

HeadStart founder and coach Francis de Vries using his mental skills in action against

IFK Gothenburg in Sweden while playing professional football

What are mental skills

At HeadStart we define mental skills as “tools of your mind”. A good analogy is to compare mental skills to physical skills. Physical skills are expressed as “tools” such as strength, speed, or endurance. We possess exactly the same “tools” in our minds.  

Developing mental skills such as self-awareness, resilience, and confidence builds your mental strength, speed, and endurance. And just like physical skills, specific practice on these mental skills allows you to become better at it. 

Physical “tools” require distinct training to be improved (think running to improve endurance or sprinting to improve speed). Building “tools of your mind” in the form of mental skills requires this same kind of detailed, specific training. We do this at HeadStart through understanding the research of psychology and combining it with real life lived experience of what it takes to perform mentally at the professional and international level of football. 

Whilst physical skills stay (mostly) on the field, mental skills are “tools” you can carry with you wherever you go. Developing mental skills has a lasting positive effect on you, both as an athlete and as a person. Mental skills make you better on the field by improving your decision making and helping you to acquire skills faster. They also make you better off the field by giving you the capability to overcome challenges in everyday life, build better quality relationships with others, and boost your mood and well-being (to name a few benefits). 

Key Point: "Developing mental skills has a lasting positive effect on you, both as an athlete and as a person"

The rest of today's blog will focus specifically on how to elevate your performance through training your mind. Happy reading! 

Train your mind For high Performance

Better performance essentially relies on two factors: 

• Acquiring a wider range of skills  

• Being able to better execute these skills 

Training your mind to develop mental skills provides a unique advantage in both of these areas. 

Area 1 - Skill acquisition: 

Research shows that if the brain is fully engaged, skills are learnt faster and remembered better. Engaging the brain during training is done most effectively through deliberate practice. This form of practice is: 

• Specific to the skill being trained 

• Forces you to be outside of your comfort zone 

• Requires you to be fully focused on the skill practice 

Mental skills are necessary to develop if you want to practice deliberately. Improving your focus, motivation, and emotional control are examples of how training mental skills will help you to practice deliberately. If you take the time to develop these mental skills, you will be able to practice deliberately more often and acquire a wider range of skills than other people who do not develop the mental skills needed to consistently practice in a deliberate way. 

The more skills you can acquire, the more options you have to perform successfully on the pitch. Essentially, mental skills underlie physical skills. If you want to dominate the game with your physical skillset, take the time to develop your mental skills so that you can consistently practice in a deliberate to improve faster than everyone else.

Key Point: "developing Mental skills allows you to practice deliberately, which will improve you faster than other players" 

Area 2 - Skill execution:


Performance in competition relies upon executing the skills you have. To successfully execute these skills, correct decision making is required. Decision making primarily happens in an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This is where thoughts are turned into actions (i.e., decisions become real) through a process called “executive function”. 

Training your mind to improve mental skills such as confidence, focus, and self-awareness increases your level of “executive function” in your brain. This allows you to make smarter decisions. Smarter decisions on the pitch means that you can execute your skills in the way that has the maximum positive effect for you and your team.

Basically, its no use acquiring lots of skills and then not being able to use them when it matters in a game or competition. We have all experienced moments when we are not able to do this because our mind "gets in the way" (we know we have the skills but do not perform them well).

To overcome this and elevate your performance to a new level it is essential that you train your mind. Put the effort in to developing mental skills such as confidence and self-awareness and you will unlock a new level in your performance which you didn't know existed before.

Key Point: "training your mind is essential if you want to be able to successfully show your skills in a game or competition"

Key takeaways


Mental skills take specific, detailed training to improve and have a lasting positive effect on you, both as an athlete and as a person

Developing mental skills allows you to practice smarter (more deliberately) and improve faster than other players

Training your mind lets you to perform your skills better when it matters the most (in games or competition)

Coming soon

Thanks for reading this first blog in what will become a continuing series. In future posts we will discuss how developing mental skills improves your mindset to build skills for success in life and how it grows well-being in you. If you are curious to learn more, or have any feedback, please contact me at: 

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