Sport Psychology & Mental Performance Training

A sport psychologist is focusing on helping athletes perform under pressure and trying to understand the psychological and physiological causes of why athletes ‘choke’ under pressure. A mental performance trainer helps an athlete or professional develop skills to manage their anxiety during stressful situations, like competition or taking a test. With the skills developed through mental performance consulting being highly transferable from sport to other areas, such as work and business, Matthew’s goal is to help his clients improve in all aspects of their lives and continue to positively develop healthy life outcomes.

What is Sport Psychology? an introduction

The main goal of sport psychology is to help improve an athlete’s performance by creating the optimal psychological climate. Depending on the athlete’s needs this can be achieved through teaching a variety of mental skills that will help influence both behaviours and performance. The application of sport psychology involves facilitating the development of mental and emotional skills, techniques, attitudes, perspectives, and processes that lead to performance enhancement and positive personal development. Sport psychology has been used to help improve performance for almost a hundred years, and through the century of research numerous topics within sport psychology that have emerged. Some of these we use today are: imagery, visualization, goal setting, positive self-talk, mental toughness, attentional control, arousal regulation, performance under pressure and team dynamics.  


Heart Rate Variability Training

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training is a fairly new training protocol that was created within the sport psychology world to help athletes regulate their heart rate and breathing during intense competitive stress[1]. HRV training has now been found to work for many other environments as well, such as test taking, job interviews, relaxation, and researchers have even found it to help cognitive anxiety, and depression[2].

HRV is a new dynamic measure showing how the heart can respond to different life events and stresses, such as positive happy emotions or negatively feeling stressed out. Heart rate is more stable and slower when feeling calm, relaxed and positive, whereas when feeling stressed out, anxious and angry the heart rate begins to increase, become more erratic and fluctuates more often. Measuring HRV assesses how efficient the heart can react to different scenarios. Higher HRV scores mean that the heart is more capable of reacting to the negative experiences and quickly attempts to smooth out heart rate back to normal. Lower HRV scores mean that the heart is less adaptable and reacts to life experiences slowly. However, all is not lost, Heart Rate Variability can be trained!

HRV Training uses a simple heart rate monitor strap in combination with a smartphone app that allows the Trainer to get a baseline measure of HRV. After getting an individualized HRV score, your Mental Performance Trainer will begin a 20 minute guided breathing training program to help keep breathing rate slow and relaxed. . Practicing proper breathing is a logical method to mimic a calming and relaxation sensation which will help to increase HRV. Researchers have found that when practicing HVR training at least once a day over three months resulted in improvements to the adaptability of the heart and baseline HRV scores. This means decreased anxiety and improved performances during tests, competitions or interviews.

Simple heart rate monitor used for HRV Training during a Sport Psychology or Mental Performance Training session

Simple heart rate monitor used for HRV Training during a Sport Psychology or Mental Performance Training session

(1) Paul, M., & Garg, K. (2012). The effect of heart rate variability biofeedback on performance psychology of basketball players. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 37(2), 131-144.

(2) Lehrer, P. M., & Gevirtz, R. (2014). Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work?. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 756.

Fees for Sport Psychology / Mential Performance Training:

Initial Assessment — $80

Training Session — $50