5 Traits of a Mentally Tough Athlete
What sets elite athletes apart from the rest? There isn’t one answer to this question since there are so many different factors when becoming elite. However, the presence of mental toughness is one undeniable factor. Athletes who are mentally tough possess the ability to disregard negative outcomes or adversity; they have the ability to control their emotions and silence the voice inside their head that says something is impossible. When you possess the qualities of the mentally tough, you are able to go beyond the limits in your mind in order to take yourself to higher levels.
1. In Control
All mentally tough athletes feel that they control their performance regardless of external forces. They possess an unshakeable faith that they can control their own performance and they remain unaffected by competition or adversity. In their minds, the identity of their opponent does not matter; they will still play their best. An athlete who isn’t mentally tough may give control to their opponents, teammates or coaches. This ultimately affects their performance by surrendering their power and shifting their focus. Instead of losing their focus after a bad call from the referee, a mentally tough athlete can keep their cool and focus on the next play. No matter what, they feel and act as if they can influence the competition and outcome of the situation.
Commitment is another trait that will always be found in a mentally tough athlete. Commitment means following through and doing what you said you would do even after your mood has changed. For an athlete, commitment is going to bed early, waking up at 5 A.M. and going to the gym in the off-season, even when he or she doesn’t feel like it. However, getting to practice is only half of it. Commitment is just as much mental as it is physical. Instead of just showing up to practice, commitment means maintaining a high level of focus and practicing as hard as you can. By remaining committed and focused, an athlete never cheats themselves or others. They make themselves better every day through the pursuit to stay consistent and committed.
When you are the fourth place team facing the undefeated first place team, are you upset or excited about the opportunity? Any mentally tough athlete would state that they are excited to face the best team because they enjoy the challenge. Instead of wanting to play a worse opponent, someone who is mentally tough wants to play an opponent who will challenge them. The underdog who plays a challenging team does not see this opportunity as a threat; rather, the athlete perceives an opportunity to grow and develop. The desire for challenge directly correlates to their perceived control because they are unaffected by the opponent. They are not complacent. Instead, they want to push their limits and abilities.
Both control and the desire for challenge would not be possible without self-confidence. A strong sense of self-belief is a quality that will be found in all mentally tough athletes. How could they challenge themselves to compete with the best if they do not believe they can succeed? Athletes who don’t believe in their abilities want to play an opponent who is weaker because they don’t have good confidence or can’t handle losing. By having high self-confidence, athletes are able to constantly improve because they challenge themselves regularly. Furthermore, self-belief allows them to play their best no matter what everyone else is doing.
No season is ever perfect. There are going to be ups and downs, wins and losses. How does an athlete handle themselves in the bad times? They persist. Instead of backing off in the face of adversity, the mentally tough athlete faces it head on. When they experience a loss, mistake or pressure – do they lose their focus and give up? No. A mentally tough athlete will rebound from failure and adversity in order to be better. Athletes grow and develop from the ups and downs of sport by persisting through the tough times. They are able to constantly push themselves because they do not experience discouragement. Rather, they let the negativity motivate them and focus on what is next.
Becoming Mentally Tough
Mentally tough athletes will always believe that they control their fate. Their performance is always dependent on themselves and external factors do not matter. They believe they have the power to overcome any situation or opponent because they have great self-confidence. Therefore, they always look to challenge themselves. By staying motivated and committed, athletes become mentally tough and they grow and develop as a person and as an athlete.
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