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Sports Psychology: Developing Mental Toughness

Play fair, but play tough is key to athletic success.  Practicing and preparing your body to become physically tough is only half the challenge.  The other half includes mental prep that includes the development of mental toughness.  Becoming a mentally tough athlete is important.  ScottCounseling offer tips and shares ideas…

Part of becoming a successful athlete is to recognize what it takes to develop confidence and trust in your self to become a top athlete.  Athletes that make it to the state tournament in their sport do so because they feel confident- most of the time.

Confidence is a personal attribute that is often attractive, alluring, desirable and contagious.  When individuals display confidence they are not displaying cockiness, rude behavior or conceit.  They are displaying their high comfort level that they will succeed.  Confidence can not only be developed, it can be strengthened.  Just like the muscles of the body can be strengthened with proper weight training, self-confidence can be strengthened with preparation and practice.

By using the four confident building steps listed in this chapter, you are on your way toward achieving greater mental toughness and achieving your athletic goals.

Step One:  Success Breeds Success

You would not be reading this if you have not had any success in your sport.  In fact, you most likely have had past success in numerous areas of you life, whether it be academics, friendships, family life and other activities that you have chosen to be a part of.  It’s time to build off of those experiences!  Confidence is built off of past successes.  Complete the confident building exercises.

1. On a piece of paper list specific activities, situations or events that you have been successful at in your life.  Post this list in a place where you can see it daily.

Note: If you think this exercise is for sissies, then you need to know that this exercise is being done daily by professional athletes, successful business people and some of the greatest leaders in the world.

2. Keep a notebook next to your bed.  At the end of each day before you go to sleep, write down you successes for the day.  You last thought for the day needs to center on your achievements!  When you wake up the next morning, read the achievements that you wrote down the following night.  Now, write down what you want to accomplish today.

Step Two: Garbage In Garbage Out

“You are what you eat.”  This common phrase is often used by nutrition specialists who are trying to prove the point that your body and physical well-being is directly affected by the food that you put into it.

Example: An athlete that loads up on high sugar foods before a practice or game often performs at a level below capability.  Marathon runners have been known to eat pasta the night before they run; high carbs, low fat, low sugar.

Your brain works the same way.  When you feed your brain a poorly balanced diet of negative thoughts, negative self- talk, negative music, negative books and negative television shows, you will become negative.  The opposite is true as well.  When you feed your brain with positive thoughts, positive self-talk, positive music and television shows, you will become positive.

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Answer the following questions:

1. Who do you spent time with?  Are the people you spent time with positive or negative?  Do they complain all the time, or do they strive to come up with positive solutions for problems?  Watch who you choose to be with.  Are you choosing to be with individuals who talk garbage?  Or, do you choose to be with individuals who take the garbage words out and put it in the trash where it belongs!
2. Does the time you spend listening to music or watching television motivate you?  Or, does it make you feel tired and depressed?  Garbage in, or garbage out?
3. Are the words that you say to yourself motivating or deflating?  Being mentally tough does not involve a though process that includes statements such as this:

“You are a loser!  Now get goin!

Mentally tough athletes say and think like this:

“Adjust.  Correct the mistake.  Here we go!”

Garbage in, or garbage out?  Keep the garbage out and away from you.

Step Three: Visualize Yourself a Success

You have heard of brain washing.  Well, the fact is, some people need their brain washed.  Visualizing yourself a success before you reach a goal is an important step toward achieving the goal.  Visualization can be a positive form of mental brain washing.  Notice I used the words “can be.”  It can also be a form of negative brain washing.  If you see or visualize yourself making a mistake or failing, you will most likely make a mistake or fail.

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Step Four: Failure Can Lead To Success

One of the greatest athletes of all time, Hank Aaron, Hall of Fame baseball player, hit 755 homeruns!  Did you know that he struck out 1383 times!  He failed more than he succeeded.  While striving to create light from electricity, Thomas Edison failed over 1200 times before he achieved success. Thomas Edison stated: “I have not failed.  I have discovered 1200 materials that don’t work.”

  • Failure may become the outcome that causes you to learn how to obtain success.  When you decide to learn from your mistakes, make positive adjustments and put a plan together to avoid future mistakes, success become more achievable.

Step Five: Practice Being Confident

  • You may have heard that “winning is 10% physical and 90% mental.”  Then, why do athletes spend 90% of their time practicing for the physical requirements of a sport and only 10% of the time practicing the following mental confident building techniques:
  • Mental Visualization Training
  • Pre-game Attitude Adjustment Session
  • Sport Psychology Training
  • Using Visual Cues
  • The average human body can run a marathon in less than four hours.  Then, what stops us?  Our mind; We don’t believe that we can do it!  Athletes need to practice mental toughness.  Practicing mental toughness is not about pep talks from the coach or getting fires up for the game or match by slamming your body into a locker to get fired up.  It involves day to day train techniques and strategies just like physical practice sessions.


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