Why Athletes Say Resilience and Getting Mentally Tough Matter

A key component of mental toughness is resilience

A clear goal of athlete mental training is increased mental toughness. A a mental performance coach, my aim is to help athletes build the necessary mental skills they need to develop a stronger mind.

The importance of being mentally tough is known to most athletes…even if how to go about building such mental toughness may not be.

Most athletes know you have to have a strong mind, accompanying high-level skills, in order to reach your full potential.

A key component of mental toughness is resilience, something a lot of athletes understand, yet, once again, don’t always have a definite way of improving.

And so, in this article, I’m going to discuss what resilience is, why it’s so important to mental toughness, and some athlete mental training strategies you can use to increase resilience and become more mentally tough.

What is Resilience

What do you think of when you hear the word resilience?

I always imagine a boxer. One who keeps getting hit repeatedly, knocked to the floor, but still gets up, puts their hands up, ready to keep on fighting.

Resilience is about bouncing back from failure. It involves accepting challenges, setbacks, and mistakes, and not allowing them to keep you down.

In essence, it’s about taking the blows from life, getting knocked down, and always standing back up, ready to face whatever’s next.

A deeper way of thinking about resilience in relation to athletes is on an emotional level.

Few, if any athletes, go through their careers absent of disappointment and failure. I have seen many who I’ve worked with struggle with such frustrating situations. Going without any light of success can weaken motivation and cause you to lose your love for your sport.

Another way resilience applies to athletes is by continuing to train and compete, even when you aren’t seeing the immediate results you want.

Resilience and Mental Toughness

To tie resilience into mental toughness is simple.

To be mentally tough, one of the things required is being able to bounce back from mistakes and accept challenges.

You’d be hard-pressed to call an athlete mentally tough if they quit at the first sign of trouble. Or if they fear even attempting due to the possibility of failure.

Setbacks must be accepted to be mentally tough. Now, that doesn’t mean they have to be enjoyed, but they do have to be managed in a positive way. That is what resilience allows you to do.

To get mentally tough, you must focus on cultivating resilience.

My belief is mental toughness is a culmination of many different mental skills that athlete mental training can help you obtain.

Resilience is one of these. Which is why you need to begin paying attention to how you can be more resilient as a player.

How to Increase Resilience in Athletes

Improving resilience is an active process. It’s not something that occurs overnight, but rather is developed through the use of athlete mental training strategies.

Over the course of time, the more you pay attention to altering your mindset and changing your perspective, the easier being resilient will become and the greater the skill will grow within your mind.

As a result of increasing your resilience, you will increase your mental toughness.

So, here are the main athlete mental training strategies you can use to improve resilience:

Change How You Speak to Yourself

When you are facing low resilience, you need to pay attention to how you’re speaking to yourself following a setback or mistake.

Does your self-talk look something like this…

  • I suck.
  • Here we go again.
  • I’ll never win.
  • Why does this always happen to me?
  • I’m so unlucky.
  • What’s the point, anyway?
  • Nothing ever goes my way.

If so, then you need to change how you speak to yourself.

This is not the frame of mind of an athlete with high levels of mental toughness. If you constantly tell yourself, I suck, or, What’s the point, anyway, do you think that’s putting you in a strong mindset to keep moving forward?

No, it’s not.

Instead, you want to be more positive and optimistic with your thoughts. Use them to fuel your drive to keep moving forward. Try speaking to yourself more like this…

  • I’ll get it next time.
  • I’ve got this, just keep going.
  • Nothing can stop me.
  • What can I learn from this?
  • How can I use this to improve moving forward?
  • Each setback is an opportunity.
  • I can bounce back from anything.

See how much better that is?

Just by changing how you think and speak to yourself, you can alter your views and improve your resilience.

Set Small Challenges

To improve resilience, you must provide yourself with the opportunity to be resilient. That means you can’t continually take things easy; keeping yourself locked in a never growing comfort zone.

Instead, you must challenge yourself. Push what you’re capable of and stretch your limits. That is the only way to see what you’re truly made of.

You don’t want to be irrational here, though. You still want to set reasonable challenges. The reason being, your aim is to test yourself, but also give yourself the chance of succeeding.

A key aspect of being resilient is having the belief you are capable of overcoming challenges. It is this belief we are seeking to build.

To do so, start setting yourself challenges each day. Put these in the form of a goal. They can be within your sport or any other area of your life.

A simple example is getting yourself to talk to one stranger a day. This is great if you’re not the most outgoing person in the world. That challenge will force you to do something uncomfortable.

As you perform challenging tasks each day, this will callous your mind and prove to yourself you are capable of facing daunting situations and coming out the other side.

Challenges in the physical realm are great, too. They stretch your will both physically and mentally and may be the easiest to start with.

Whether you challenge yourself to run five miles a day, talk to a stranger, or do one hundred pushups, the goal is to provide yourself the opportunity to face difficult situations and overcome them each day.

Learn to Focus on the Positives

This third athlete mental training strategy involves how you respond following a setback or mistake.

One of the ways resilience wears down is experiencing many bad games in a row. But this principle can also apply following many mistakes in a row within a single game.

The more you see yourself fail, the easier it is to lose motivation and have little drive to keep pushing past these setbacks.

To remedy this, you must change what you’re focusing on following a mistake.

Now, I know it’s not easy to overlook the bad. Our minds tend to latch onto mistakes and fixate on them. However, if your goal is increased resilience, concentrating on what went wrong will only weaken your mindset.

Instead, you want to train yourself to focus on the positives. In the beginning, this will be difficult. But, the more you do it, the easier it will become.

This involves a practice known as reframing. You take a situation that hasn’t changed, yet, you choose to look at it a different way.

Instead of seeing mistakes and setbacks as awful things, you begin to view them in a more positive light. This positivity comes in two ways. For one, you learn how to see the good in what you just did, rather than only seeing the bad.

But also, you realize that mistakes are opportunities to learn. And so you begin to view them more positively simply due to the fact you know there will be something worthwhile taken from the situation you can use to better yourself and your game moving forward.

Final Thoughts

Athletes understand the importance of being mentally tough. It is a necessary component of becoming the best you can be.

To increase mental toughness, specific mental skills must be developed. One of which is resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from failures; facing setbacks and challenges and moving past them. In essence, it’s about being able to get knocked down and stand back up time and time again.

To improve resilience there are three athlete mental training strategies you can use: change how you speak to yourself, set small challenges, and learn to focus on the positives. 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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