To what extent does “mental toughness” impact sport success?
I think it is important to first define what exactly is mental toughness! In my opinion “mental toughness” is actually a set of skills athletes draw upon (i.e. focus, composure, confidence, etc.) throughout the game which in turn allow them to execute perfect, “muscle memory” type movements. Athletes who have a high degree of mental toughness seem to play effortlessly with their minds and bodies in synchrony — this mindset, of course, allows for precision focus, high confidence, and the ability to qucikly bounce back from stress and adversity. As far as the degree mental toughness impacts sport success, I think it’s actually more advantageous to identify the inter-related pieces that impact athletic success (as opposed to trying to figure out the absolute value of each). When I teach athletes about the variables that impact athletic success, I emphasize training in the following areas:
* Physical development – includes strength, speed, agility, nutrition, hydration, and rest.
* Technical instruction – includes learning the skills related to the sport, including offensive and defensive sets and strategies
* Mental toughness – includes setting goals, journaling progress, refining focus, developing self-confidence, and increasing human resiliency
What is the first mental training skill you would teach kids learning about mental training skills?
Every athlete, regardless of age or skill level, can begin a mental training skills program by starting with goal setting. Goals, when written properly, can become a road map to future success and help with focus, motivation, perseverance, and sports performance. Athletes can begin by brainstorming all the things they want to happen this year (i.e. start all games, score x number of goals, etc), and then refine the goals afterward. Effective goals need to be controllable, specific, measurable, and realistic. Every athlete can begin each season with a few specific goals, and then measure the progress of the goals throughout the season — this is a very important aspect to athletic development and success!! For more information on successful goal setting, click here!
While almost everyone says mental toughness is key for sport success, too often times its merely talked about but not taught – why is this?
Unfortunately, I agree — everyone I know admits that mental toughness is critical for athletic success, yet when you talk to athletes the vast majority have no idea of how to improve their confidence, focus, concentration, and resiliency. In my opinion there is still a negative stigma associated with the word “mental,” and people still want to assume that if an athlete is developing mental skills than the athlete obviously has mental problems!! The reality is that mental training skills are useful for all athletes, regardless of whether the athlete is experiencing mental distress. Hopefully in the future as more visible, high profile athletes turn to sport psychology, increasingly more amateur athletes will embrace the significance of mental training skills as well.