How to be Mentally Tough in The Face of Adversity
Athletes hear about the importance of mental toughness all the time. Successful athletes or teams often attribute mental toughness as the secret sauce that leads to victory.
If mental toughness is a key to success, how do athletes develop this key ingredient to success and when faced with adversity?
Let’s dive into the topic of mental toughness: What it is and what it is not.
Mental toughness is not biological. There is no genetic code for mental toughness.
Mental toughness is more than just sucking it up and being a tough guy or gal.
These two popular misconceptions are the reason why some athletes don’t pursue mental toughness.
What exactly is mental toughness?
Mental toughness is a trained skill that helps you cope with challenging situations. Mental toughness is also a broad term that indicated the strength of your overall mental game.
Mental toughness does not guarantee victory, but it helps you push past adversity and allows you the opportunity to succeed.
Daniel Gould, professor of Applied Sport Psychology at Michigan State University, defines mental toughness as: “It’s an athlete’s ability to stay focused, motivated, committed in the pursuit of their goals, especially in the face of adversity and failure. It’s not like you show up on game day and have it.”
If mental toughness is a skill, then it can be developed along with physical or technical skills.
For example, the physical act of putting requires focus, repetition, evaluation, and adjustment.
While practicing any skill you need to focus on what you are doing. You need to gain feedback after each attempt and make adjustments to your technique if necessary…
And you need to repeat this process over a period of time so you can develop confidence and trust in your ability to perform well when the pressure is on.
Dan Gould also states that game simulations where you practice dealing with adverse conditions, is one way to build mental toughness.
GOULD: “Part of being mentally tough is when you have a plan A where everything goes perfectly, plan B something has gone wrong, plan C is all heck breaks loose. You have some strategies to go to in these events.”
Mental toughness is like having mental contingency plans that kick into action when things go awry. It’s about anticipating what might happen and have coping plans.
If you practice tough conditions and perform well, you’ll have that mental toughness tool in your back pocket. This helps you push forward during challenging moments of competition.
When you haven’t developed your mental toughness, your response options are limited and the outcome is usually failure.
When you commit to working on mental toughness, you’ll be able to handle failure better, bounce back from injuries, manage difficult game conditions (bad weather, delays, poor officiating, or malfunctioning equipment) and deal with distractions.
If you want to cope better with tough situations, you want to be prepared mentally with a coping action, be mentally tough, and use composure skills.
Tips For Developing Mental Toughness
How can you replicate challenges you will face in competition during training sessions?
1. Anticipate what might rock your composure or confidence in competition, such as a bad call from an official.
2. Imagine how you will cope with this challenge, such as telling yourself you have no control over the officials and to not give it any mental energy.
3. Create trying situations in practice that replicate competition so you can learn to perform under pressure.
4. Review your performance and identify coping strategies that worked for you or what you can do different in the next session.
Training to be mentally tough is the first step to competing mentally tough!
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