How to Get Stronger Mentally in Sports
Mental strength is a key piece to athletic success. Having a strong mind will give you an edge over the competition and allow the physical skills you've worked hard for to flourish during games.
But getting stronger mentally is not always as clear as improving your physical skills or strengthening your body. And for that reason, many athletes overlook it when it comes to their training.
But knowing how important it is to be strong mentally, you want to ensure you are taking steps to strengthen your mindset as an athlete.
In this article you're going to learn how to get stronger mentally as an athlete. But first, let's take a look at what it means for you to have a strong mind in sports.
What It Means to Be Strong Mentally in Sports
As a mental performance coach, I spend a lot of time working with athletes on improving and strengthening their mindset. But I also spend a lot of time thinking about the best ways to do so.
One thing became very clear to me early on (largely influenced by the confusion I felt when I was playing baseball), and that's the fact that many athletes do not have a clear idea of what it means to be mentally strong.
We hear the phrase used a lot, but what exactly does it mean?
In truth, I believe it has different meanings for different people. But in relation to athletes, being strong mentally means you are able to control your mindset, manage mistakes, bounce back positively from failures, and play with a high level of confidence.
To make it even clearer, there are six characteristics I've found that make up athlete mental toughness. They include self-awareness, self-confidence, focus, resilience, a strong self-image, and self-management.
Now I've written an article that goes into much more detail on the six characteristics of mental toughness in sports, but let's take a quick look at what each of these characteristics involves.
- Self-Awareness: developing self-awareness means you understand yourself. You can recognize what you're thinking and feeling, why you're thinking and feeling that way, as well as understanding how that impacts your play.
- Self-Confidence: having a high level of trust in yourself and your skills increases your performance, but also reduces the amount of fear and anxiety you feel while competing.
- Focus: the stronger your focus, the stronger you mindset. During a game you need to be able to center your attention onto what you choose.
- Resilience: this is the ability to bounce back from failures and the adversities you face in your sport.
- Strong Self-Image: the way you see yourself is crucial to your success. You want to make sure you have a strong self-image that aligns with the goals you've set.
- Self-Management: managing yourself follows self-awareness, and is a powerful skill for any athlete to develop. It means you are able to control the thoughts you have and how you feel while you perform.
Knowing those to be the six main characteristics that comprise a strong mind in sports, to get stronger mentally as an athlete, you want to focus on building each of those characteristics.
And the good thing about it is, each one is a skill that can be learned, worked on, and improved.
Tools You Can Use to Get Stronger Mentally in Sports
To develop the six characteristics outlined above, you need tools to do so. Each one will not be gained simply through hope. That's why it's important to take a proactive approach to mental training.
View strengthening your mindset as an athlete just like you do strengthening your body and improving your skills...and that means work.
You have to put together a practice plan and make sure you are taking steps each day to get stronger mentally.
It is that type of effort that will lead you to building a strong mindset in sports, giving you more control over yourself and an edge over the competition.
There are many tools I use in one-on-one mental performance coaching to help athletes get stronger mentally. And we'll talk more later on about what mental coaching is.
But if you're wanting to begin strengthening your mindset on your own, I want to provide you with a simple exercise/tool you can use to strengthen each one of the characteristics.
- Self-Awareness: Writing: to build your self-understanding you want to take up a daily practice of writing in a journal. Use self-reflective writing and write about how you were feeling at practice/the game, what you were thinking and so on. The more you do this exercise, the more you will grow to understand yourself on a deeper level.
- Self-Confidence: Visualization: increasing your confidence takes you building the memory of seeing yourself succeed. Through sports visualization, you can increase the confidence and trust you have in yourself and your skills.
- Focus: Thought-Stopping Phrase: when you struggle with focus during games, what's happening is that your attention is becoming fixed on something you don't want to be thinking about. What you can use is a thought-stopping phrase that you repeat to yourself in those moments to return your focus onto what you want to be focused on.
- Resilience: Setting Small Challenges: to improve your ability to push past setbacks, you want to set challenges for yourself whenever you're faced with failure. This will help you be resilient and keep pushing forward no matter what.
- Self-Image: Outline Who You Want to Be: a fun exercise you can do to build your self-image is describing the player you want to be. Then what you can do is reflect on that each day. Read it over and really imagine yourself being that player already.
- Self-Management: Mindfulness Meditation: practicing mindfulness meditation helps calm your mind and gives you more control over your thoughts. The more you can control what you're thinking, the more you can control what you're feeling during practices and games.
What I recommend you do is begin putting these tools and exercises into practice. Don't feel like you need to apply all six at once. Choose one or two and focus on building the habit of training your mindset.
Mental Coaching to Get Stronger Mentally in Sports
The quickest and most effective way to get stronger mentally as an athlete is through working with a mental performance coach.
I offer one-on-one mental coaching to help you build a stronger mindset.
We will begin mental coaching with an assessment. This is a way for me to gain a clear understanding of your current strengths and challenges mentally.
From there, I will create a custom mental game plan targeted towards getting you stronger mentally by developing the six mental characteristics outlined above.
The work will take place through weekly coaching sessions and action steps.
To learn more about one-on-one mental performance coaching to help you get stronger mentally as an athlete, please fill out the form below or go ahead and schedule your free introductory coaching call.
Whether you decide to work with me, or work on your own, it's crucial that you begin taking steps to get stronger mentally as an athlete. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below or schedule an introductory coaching call here.
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