Every athlete who plays sports at a professional level is obviously at the peak of physical fitness, so it makes you wonder why some succeed whilst others fall short. Skill is obviously one factor, but what about two athletes who are at the same skill and fitness level? How does one manage to perform better than the other? In many cases, it is being psychologically tough that ends up being the deciding factor, as those athletes who have mental toughness training are the ones that very often end up rising to the top of their chosen field.
Just as you can train your body or practice daily to improve your skill level, you can also train your mind so that you become mentally tough. Every athlete, regardless of whether an amateur or a pro, needs to learn how to get a competitive edge, and that often involves getting inside the head of their opponent. It’s the ability to take that shot when the pressure is on, or to keep on going when others are starting to wear down that helps create that edge. That usually means staying strong mentally when it may feel as though your body is about to let you down.
For many, mental toughness in sports begins with developing a high level of self-confidence. There is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance, and it’s important that you stay on the right side of that equation if you want to succeed. Being self-confident in sports means having the ability to shake off a bad shot or game, and to believe that you will rise to the occasion the next time the opportunity presents itself. If you spend too much time lingering on your negative performances, you will never be able to have the confidence to succeed when the chance comes.
Another important part of becoming mentally tough is understanding that it’s okay to be nervous but also learning how to stay relaxed below those jitters. Any athlete who claims not to be nervous ahead of a major game or event is probably not being entirely truthful, and it will probably show in their performance. Being able to block out the nerves, as well as everything but what is happening in any given moment will help you retain a clear focus throughout your game or performance.
Mental toughness can be hard to learn, that is why it’s a good idea to try and introduce it to your kids when they first get started in sports. They may never go on to be professional athletes, but they will learn a valuable skill that will help them in other areas of their life. They will become more confident, and will be able to apply the principles they learn to their studies. Think about the amount of pressure that kids feel at exam times, and you will see how mental toughness will help them stay as stress-free as possible in school.