Psychological Skills Training or (PST) refers to a steady practice of sharpening mindset or mental acuity skills in order to achieve peak performance (Williams & Krane, 2015). Sometimes it’s referred to as “Mind-Set Training” or “Mental Training”. The concept has evolved over the years and came about with the advent of sport psychology. Coaches, certified personal trainers, athletes, and clients all know that in order to reach peak fitness performance, they need to train. In the same way, psychological skills can be trained systematically for improvement and simultaneously tracked.

How to Employ Psychological Skills Training

First, pick an area that you feel is a growth opportunity from the following (non-exhaustive) list:

  • Motivation
  • Communication
  • Stress & anxiety
  • Confidence
  • Attention
  • Awareness

Next, create a SMART Goal for it.
Make sure to use Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reward-based, and Time-defined statements.

For example, let’s say you want to work on building confidence, a SMART goal would be:

  • I will create one affirmation that is meaningful to me per day, for one week.
  • After one week, I will spend five minutes daily for the next two weeks speaking the affirmations that I created out loud.

Both of these goals are aligned with the SMART model criteria.

Then, if you want to take it one step further and track the value of using affirmations to build confidence, you can use a chart like this:

Situation Initial Reaction Affirmation     Was it effective?        If so, how?

You can create another SMART goal for how often and for how long you use the chart to track the progress of using affirmations to build confidence such as, “I will spend 10-15 minutes daily for the next two weeks writing down and reflecting the affirmations I used during the day and how effective they were to support my goal of building confidence.”

All told, if you used this approach to build confidence, it would be for five weeks total using the above example. The first week would be writing down affirmations that are meaningful to you. The next two weeks would be reciting and getting used to hearing yourself use the affirmations out loud. The final two weeks would include tracking the results.

The great part of PST is that it can be adjusted as you progress based on what’s going on in your life. You can assess whether or not it’s working the same way you do with fitness programming.

Here’s the caveat: Just like fitness plans and training take time to realize results, so does PST. Treat this like learning a new language or starting out a brand new client on their first-ever fitness program. If at first it doesn’t make sense or feels awkward, think about the first time you learned a new exercise or routine and then the first time you used it with a client!

This is just one example of a way to develop an area by using Psychological Skills Training. Other techniques one could employ include free-flow journaling, visualization/imagery, relaxation techniques like breath work, and positive self-talk.


**Please bear in mind this technique does not replace psychological guidance or treatment, but is instead intended to bolster performance. Please consult with a credentialed professional if you are in distress.**

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Williams, J. M., & Krane, V. (2015). Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (7thed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Shay Vasudeva

Shaweta “Shay” Vasudeva, MA (Psychology), MS (Kinesiology), NFPT-CPT, NASM-CPT-CES, THSA-CNT, and Tai Chi & Black Belt Karate Instructor is a teaching professional, speaker, author, coach, and cat lover! Her passion is to help people become the best version of themselves by using an interdisciplinary and holistic approach, bringing 10+ years of experience in Psychology, Personal Fitness Training, Corrective Exercise, Nutritional Coaching, Cranial Sacral Work, and teaching Karate & Tai Chi classes to her business, ShayTheCoach. Shay teaches classes at Maricopa Community College District as an Adjunct Professor. For more information visit her personal webpage: