As a sport psychologist it isn’t unusual to come across a common myth that sport psychology services are for elite athletes only and thus, must make a hole in your pocket. As a practitioner, my goal is to reach to the grassroot level as much as possible because mental toughness is a skill that can be developed right from the beginning. Like the physical training of any athlete is a non-negotiable component of the training routine, similarly, adding mental toughness training makes sure the athletes mind is also being trained to endure the competitive demands. This is because it is possible to learn how to develop a mind of a champion!
To begin with, being mentally tough can mean various things. All athletes are a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses, so are the demands of each sport. Some athletes may require building self-confidence, some may need to learn pressure handling, some may need to work on improving their attentional focus, etc. As the nature of participating in any sport is dynamic, for an athlete to sustain in the competitive realm the foundation needs to be impeccable. Like the old saying goes, ‘if you want the building to be strong, work on formulating a durable base to begin with’. Teaching an athlete to be mentally tough is to teach them to push themselves beyond their existing comfort zones, not just physically but also mentally.
Mental toughness in sport is the ability to pull through competitive pressure and consistently perform at your optimum skill level. Mental toughness is not always the perfection or excellence, moreover, it is the mental ability of an athlete to consistently replicate the execution under tough circumstances. It is a skill like a cover drive, bicycle kick, or a forehand topspin, you can choose to practice and sharpen it regularly. In any sport, mental preparation plays a huge role just as the athletes physical training. An athlete who works regularly on training his or her mind usually is found to perform to one’s potential truly. The role of a sport psychologist or the mental trainer is to initially understand the athletes need, the personality, and the external demands placed on the athlete. Depending on this a customised mental training routine can be formulated and worked out with the athlete on a regular basis.
To become a mentally tough athlete is a continuous process and a few things can be implemented –
- Winning Attitude: A strong sense of self-belief is a great way to begin any practice session or a tournament. Athletes must pay close attention to building a bulletproof and challenging mindset by training like a champion.
- Pressure Management: Athletes should have a full understanding of how he or she behaves under pressure to be able to perform unfazed by it. Self-awareness, developing strategies beforehand, and simulation training can be implemented to handle pressure.
- Laser Focus: A funnel approach of one’s concentration can make skill acquisition or implementation fairly smooth. The athlete should learn to focus completely on the task at hand rather than letting external circumstances affect shot delivery.
An expert consultation on developing such routines can be beneficial and much more effective as sport psychologist are trained professionals in this area. Training your mind is an everyday thing and thus, athletes can be mindful themselves.
Our mind has the power to be tough, we need to learn to harness it!