How Do Athletes Develop Mental Toughness?

One of the key goals of athlete mental training is the development of mental toughness.

No matter what sport you play, a strong mind is going to lead to higher levels of success. In addition to physical skills, mental toughness allows you to truly unlock your full athletic potential.

The question, though, is how do athletes develop mental toughness.

It’s easy for coaches to talk day in and day out about the importance of a strong mind. But this does little to help athletes if that’s as far as the conversation goes.

A further step must be taken, which shows you exactly how mental toughness can be developed.

In this article, you will learn a simple strategy you can use as an athlete to begin strengthening your mindset, today.

What Does it Mean to be Mentally Tough?

Now, in addition to failing to show athletes how to build mental toughness, another challenge I see athletes faced with in my work as a mental performance coach is not truly knowing what it means to be mentally tough.

Well, I can tell you first and foremost that it doesn’t mean showing no emotion. Nor does it mean never having any doubts about your skills or never getting frustrated after a mistake.

Those are all natural.

Being mentally tough does not involve hiding anything about yourself or pretending like things don’t bother you.

What it does mean is being able to handle adversity, bounce back from setbacks and failures, have a high level of belief in yourself, and take challenges head-on. It also means having the ability to understand and regulate your emotions.

Really, mental toughness is the culmination of many different mental skills. Skills that can be built through athlete mental training.

Within mental performance coaching, there are six elements we focus on to build mental toughness within athletes. These include self-awareness, self-confidence, focus, resilience, a positive self-image, and self-management.

Through working to develop those areas, you find yourself on the path towards greater mental toughness.

Now, in this article, we aren’t going to go into each of those six characteristics. We are going to keep things simple by providing you with an exercise you can start using today to begin strengthening your mind.

Mental Toughness Exercise

One of the key components of high-level mental toughness is self-awareness. This means understanding yourself, including your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

The reason it’s so crucial is due to the knowledge it provides.

Let’s say you struggle with bouncing back from a mistake. Well, you need to first understand what it is that upsets you, what kind of thoughts lead to you feeling angry or embarrassed, and then how that influences your actions.

From there, you can begin to change how you think, which will alter how you feel, and as a result, influence your actions moving forward.

Due to the importance of self-awareness, the first athlete mental training exercise you should use to build mental toughness will work to help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself.

Step #1: Build Self-Awareness Through Writing

It may seem odd to use writing as a way to strengthen your mind, but it proves time and time again with the athletes I work with to do just that.

What you do is aim to write a single page a day. Buy yourself a journal and commit to writing in it daily. To make it easy on yourself, do so right when you wake up or just before going to sleep.

Now, you may be wondering what you should write about. Well…anything! That’s what’s so great about this exercise. The point is to gain greater insight into yourself, so simply write whatever comes to mind.

What this does is teach you the powerful skill of examining your thoughts objectively. The more comfortable you get at doing so through writing, the easier it will become when you are in the middle of a game or during practice.

Step #2: Set Small Challenges

While you are working to build your self-awareness, you can begin to work on a few other key characteristics of mental toughness.

This is done through the use of small challenges.

Challenges allow you to push yourself past what is comfortable. This works to increase your self-management. In addition, the more you overcome challenges, the higher your confidence will grow.

Also, as you set challenges, inevitably you will face setbacks. By overcoming these setbacks you increase your ability to be resilient.

Now, with the challenges, they don’t always have to be in direct relation to your sport. For example, you may be shy around strangers. While that may have little to do with your sport, it could be a great exercise for you to choose.

Challenge yourself to strike up a conversation with one stranger tomorrow.

Feel free to think of any other example you’d like. The point is, set yourself challenges that push you, yet are still achievable. Doing so is a fantastic athlete mental training tool that will work to increase your mental toughness.

Final Thoughts

As an athlete, you need to be mentally tough. It is your responsibility to work on building the mental skills necessary to strengthen your mindset.

To do so, there are two steps you can begin taking today: practice writing to build self-awareness, and set yourself small challenges.

In addition to these, if you are interested in a more in-depth approach to increasing mental toughness, check out Mental Training Advantage.

This fourteen-day program shows you all the athlete mental training tools you need to build a championship mindset and increase mental toughness. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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