Mental Toughness Tips for Athletes

Mental Toughness for Peak Performance

Formula for Mental Toughness

What is the source of mental toughness? Is mental toughness something you are born with, or can it be developed?

If you think mental toughness is just a personality trait, you believe you either have it or don’t. When you view mental toughness as merely a personality trait, you will feel helpless when facing adversity.

In other words, if mental toughness is genetic, you are powerless to: get out of a slump, recover mentally from injuries, perform under pressure, or deal with any obstacle outside of sport.

Let’s challenge this belief for a moment…

You have see two components of mental toughness: your thoughts about adversity and your response to adverse conditions. However, your overall perspective about the source of mental toughness fuels your thoughts and reactions.

Let’s use the following scenario to illustrate mental toughness. A baseball or softball player is in a 0-20 slump at the plate. If that player views mental toughness as a personality trait, they will believe there is nothing in their power they can do to get out of the slump.

In practice, they will go through the motions. They will feel less excited about games and will often hope they are not in the lineup. They will feel anxious at the plate, throwing off their timing.

These players will experience tense muscles, interfering with mechanics and prolonging the slump.

The other view is that mental toughness can be developed through training. This type of player will still experience a bit of frustration, but they believe the solution is within them.

The answer may be a tweak in mechanics, watching the film, changing their approach in the batter’s box, or merely trusting their swing and having patience.

Their confidence may drop a little, but they know they have the power to resolve their slump.

Mental toughness allows you to persist and focus despite your circumstances. When you respond with mental toughness, you build even more mental strength to help overcome adversity in the future.

Mental toughness is an asset for athletes of all levels. For example, in a stretch of 20 games in the 2021-22 NBA season, the New York Knicks won only three games and had several meltdowns late in games. As the Knicks faced a rough patch in the season, head coach Tom Thibodeau commented on the team’s need for mental toughness.

THIBODEAU: “We have to have the mental toughness to get through this. When you face adversity, being mentally tough is the most important thing to be in any situation. We can’t hang our heads. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to get out there and fight. That’s what this is about right now. This is about our fight, our will, determination, togetherness, our spirit, all of that. We’ve got to make it happen.”

As you can see, mental toughness requires action and the mindset that mental strength can be developed through training.

Mental Toughness Recipe

Two ways you can build mental toughness include remembering when you overcame adversity or developing mental strength through mental training.

Mental skills such as refocusing, managing expectations, proactive confidence, coping with mistakes, and trust in skills contribute to your overall mental toughness.

You can also improve mental toughness by looking for solutions instead of dwelling on the problem, maintaining a high level of preparation, putting in qualify work with effective practice.

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