How Do I Build Mental Toughness as an Athlete?

How to improve athlete mental toughness? Learn what makes up mental toughness in sports and how you can build it by using athlete mental toughness training.

Every athlete wants to improve mental toughness. You know that the stronger you are mentally, the better you will perform.

Not only will you perform better, but you will be able to bounce back from failure and manage setbacks and mistakes in a more positive and productive way.

But knowing you want to be mentally tough is not the same as knowing how to improve mental toughness in sports.

This is because of two reasons: number one, it can be difficult to get clear on what it actually means to be mentally tough.

Which brings us to number two. If you aren’t clear on what it takes to be mentally tough, you won’t know how to build mental toughness.

What you need is a combination of a clear definition of mental toughness and a strategy you can apply to improve your mental toughness as an athlete.

6 Characteristics of Mentally Tough Athletes

To come up with a definition of mental toughness, it’s best to look at the specific characteristics that work to build athlete mental toughness. This helps us get beyond a broad definition and land on something tangible.

When you have an idea of what characteristics make up something, then you know that the development of those characteristics will be what you need to focus on to attain the end result you’re after.

To build mental toughness, you must work on developing these six characteristics.

Mentally Tough Athletes are…

  1. Self-Aware: they have the ability to recognize their thoughts and feelings. But more than recognize them, they understand them. This is a key component to managing yourself, which is another characteristic of mental toughness we’ll talk about later.
  2. Confident in Themselves & Their Skills: they have a high level of trust in themselves and know they have the skills they need to succeed. Confidence provides athletes with a stronger mind because they are no longer looking to others for validation about their play.
  3. Focused: they have the ability to control their attention. Focus keeps you from falling victim to the many distractions you face as an athlete (both internally and externally).
  4. Resilient: they not only bounce back from mistakes and failures but know how to learn from them. Athletes who are mentally tough know that mistakes can be turned into something positive if you take something from them to improve your game.
  5. Able to Calm Their Nerves: when an athlete can calm their nerves going into a game, they will play with more mental clarity. This will make it easier to focus, along with playing freely and with full confidence.
  6. Skilled in Self-Management: they are able to recognize their thoughts, feelings, and behavior (self-awareness), and then manage them. Their thoughts and emotions do not control them. Mentally tough athletes control their own thoughts and emotions and have them work for them rather than against them.

Building Athlete Mental Toughness

Knowing that the six characteristics listed above make up mental toughness, the strategy you can use to build mental toughness for yourself is to focus on improving each of the characteristics.

Now, this takes work. It’s not going to happen overnight, but nothing in your sport has.

When it comes to your physical skills, you’ve likely put hours and years of training into getting them to where they are now. You need to take that same work ethic and apply it to building mental toughness.

In the next section, I’m going to introduce a way you can speed up the process. For now, I want to provide you with a single exercise for each characteristic that will help you to develop it.

Tools to Use to Develop…

  1. Self-Awareness: writing. A simple exercise you can do is begin writing each day. This is a way for you to come face to face with your thoughts and begin to understand the connection between them, your emotions, and our actions.
  2. Confidence: self-talk. What you do is come up with a list of statements that boost your confidence. Then, each day, repeat the statements to yourself at least once to work on building your confidence.
  3. Focus: mindfulness. Training mindfulness is training focus because you are working on controlling your attention and keeping it centered in the present moment.
  4. Resilience: thought-stopping phrase. Come up with a phrase you can say to yourself whenever you make a mistake or have a setback. It should help you stop negative thoughts, let it go, and get yourself refocused.
  5. Calming Nerves: breath work. before a game begins, or even practice, turn your attention onto your breath (much like with mindfulness). Deep breaths will center your attention in the present moment and calm your nerves.
  6. Self-Management: setting objectives. As you set objectives for practices and games, you work to focus on them. By doing so, you are working to control yourself better and building the skill of self-management.

Athlete Mental Toughness Training

By putting the exercises listed above into practice, you will begin building your mental toughness. But if you’re looking for a way to speed up the process, you can use one-on-one mental toughness coaching.

Here at Success Starts Within, we offer coaching for athletes of all sports and all levels. What we’ll do is first identify what’s keeping you from being as mentally tough as you’d like.

In other words, we will discover which of the characteristics listed above need the most work.

Then, a custom mental training plan will be created, covering your main strengths and weaknesses.

The actual coaching takes place during a 50-minute coaching session every week. This coaching is performed virtually, so you can have access to mental toughness training no matter where you are in the world.

Following the coaching session each week, you will be given action steps to be performed. These action steps will be where you apply the tools and techniques you’ve learned and truly begin building your mental toughness.

Click here to learn more about the mental toughness training we offer and see how you can begin building mental toughness as an athlete.

If you aren’t ready for one-on-one coaching, I encourage you to take the exercise listed in the previous section and begin putting them into practice.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

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, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

Mental Training Courses

Learn more about our two main mental training courses for athletes: Mental Training Advantage and The Mentally Tough Kid.

The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

In Mental Training Advantage, you will learn tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage expectations & pressure, increase motivation, and build mental toughness. It’s time to take control of your mindset and unlock your full athletic potential!

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Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!