You incorporate drills and activities to reinforce the development of your athletes' physical skills and strategic plans. Just as repetition leads to execution for physical and team skills, mental skills are best learned through actual practice and game-like settings. Mental skills such as decision making, recognizing play patterns, focusing attention, etc. are best learned and reinforced while physically performing.
Examples: A track coach has runners rotate interval starting and finishing positions around the track so they won’t adopt a mental set, pushing during one stretch but coasting during another. Changing starting and finishing positions forces runners to mentally concentrate on their pace at every position around the track.
A volleyball coach changes how points are scored during scrimmages. Players can lose form, not run plays properly and still score points, but this defeats the purpose of scrimmaging. Rather, award points for passing accurately, moving without the ball, and calling out. The team that plays the best scores the most points. This reward structure reinforces mental decisions that lead to more effective play in actual games.
A basketball coach has players’ practice grabbing rebounds underneath the basket and shooting la7yups with each hand. However, a mental error is dropping the ball below the shoulders where it could be stolen. Positioning another player in front of the rebounder ready to swat at the ball if dropped below the shoulders is a great way to reinforce the mental decision to keep the ball away from other players.
Recommendation: Here are steps to help you modify drills and activities to incorporate mental practice. First, think of the mental skills needed for your sport or demands of your sport that affect mental processes. These may include decision making in team sports, or maintaining perspective while disoriented in wrestling or swimming. Second, determine how the practice drills and activities you already use incorporate mental skills. If they do, exaggerate the emphasis on mental skills. If they don't, modify the drills to include mental reinforcement. Third, experiment! Be bold in trying new activities, altering traditional scoring schemes, rewarding play rather than outcome. Some will work, some will not. In any case, you will be practicing mental skills necessary for coaching.