Ready To Play: Mental toughness for “Athletes” in Sports

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

In sports psychology and performance coaching, mental toughness is probably the most widely used term, but still, most athletes and coaches are unaware of its importance. Mental toughness is about having awareness, resilience, and determination. It is the characteristic that is both innate and can be developed over time, so if you are an athlete who does not appear to be born with it, no worries! You can certainly learn how to develop mental toughness in sport.

Sport is a combination of physical training and mental strength. Both of these skills help the athletes to pull through competitive pressure and consistently perform at their optimum skill level. But building mental toughness takes time, and athletes find ways to grow their mental strength on the field and off the field. In other words, improving the weaker part of your mental game toughness is just like building muscle- if you want to make it vigorous, you would have to be persistent and consistent.

Many athletes search for the answer to how to become mentally tough or how to cultivate it. To make things easier for them, we have done a comprehensive research and outline the topic. So let's get straight into it to learn the importance and how an athlete can build mental toughness.

Definition of Mental toughness

Mental strength is often known as the ability to produce consistent results under pressure and regardless of the situation. In a seminal study, researchers Sheldon Hanton, Declan Connaughton, and Graham Jones determined mental toughness to be an athlete's ability to outperform their competitors in managing demand and demonstrating consistency, drive, focus, confidence, and control under pressure.

Importance of Mental toughness

Mental toughness is one of the top qualities of elite athletes. It is the factor that usually determines the winner or loser in sports. The success or failure of the athlete is multifunctional. It depends on the combination of various factors including, skills level, Physical training, mental strength, and psychological factors. In any sport, effective performance requires not only the necessary skills or high-level physical-training, but also, one must be mentally tough to cope with pressure and difficulties that are causing hindrance in the way of his/her success.

Mental strength also encourages athletes to go an extra yard and make impossible things possible. It is the habit of being able to suffer the longest and willing to do what most other athletes do not do. It is also the mental toughness that motivates an athlete to make a last-minute shot that everyone thought was impossible or to win a race after falling and knowing it is just about finishing.

How to build mental toughness in athletes

Sports psychologists, athletes, and performance coaches have always considered mental toughness as one of the core psychological characteristics that are directly proportional to the outcomes and success in sport. To become an athlete with high mental toughness or strength few things can be implemented. Try one or all of the following to start building mental toughness.

Find a way, not an excuse

A strong sense of self-belief is the best way to kick start any practice session or tournament. Mentally tough athletes always keep a winning attitude, and they do not make excuses when the thing does not seem to be going in the right way. So if you are looking to cultivate mental toughness, instead of playing a blame game, keep on focusing, and try hard every time until you achieve the goal.

Pressure management

Pressure management is arguably the cornerstone of any impressive performance. If an athlete does not manage the pressure well and tumble at the most crucial stages, he/she will not be able to outsmart his/her competitors.

In order to grow pressure management and handling skill, self-awareness is the key, moreover developing strategies beforehand and simulation training can also help the athlete to behave well under pressure.

Confidence in abilities

Having confidence in the ability will not scare the seasoned athletes. They will welcome upcoming challenges with open arms. It is the unshakeable belief of an athlete that they can meet any challenge they are facing. If an athlete is high on confidence, he/she will feel a strong sense of meaning and will not take competition personally. Even if the individual does not perform well, he will take it as a learning curve and will not get disappointed.

Use imagery

Imagery is one of the skills that increase mental toughness, and many great athletes relied on the most. It involves engaging all your senses to visualize the actual action you would like to execute.

Imagery is a strategy that can positively influence athlete self-efficacy and performance. It may not be one of the easy skills to develop, but if you master it and execute it well, it can prove out to be the most useful skill you ever have.

Adapt quickly

In general, people can be resistant to change, and they would not like to get out of their comfort zone. If you want to build mental strength or toughness, do not feel comfortable with your routine and learn to adapt to different situations quickly. It will enable you to handle unexpected training challenges, new-routines, different weathers, and facing new threats and opportunities.

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