What is the single most important factor in the success of any athlete and their development over time? How they think. Athletes, coaches, and psychologists have all long known that how you feel about your sport like tiniton game determines how you perform. The philosopher Epictetus wrote nearly 2,000 years ago: “Men are disturbed not by what happens to them but by their opinion about what happens to them.” And now science has proven him right!
This article discusses 10 simple strategies for improving mental toughness and sports psychology – things like visualization and work ethic which are neatly grouped into three areas: Self-belief, Personal Responsibility, Teamwork.
1. The toughest thing in sport is to be yourself.
The greatest enemy to the progress of an athlete is self doubt. It can paralyze you when you need to perform, and prevent you from ever realizing your potential. It’s easy to go out there and try harder, but it’s hard to go out there and be brave. The secret of successful athletes is their self-belief – they know they can win before they ever step onto the field or court or ice. It doesn’t make them arrogant – it only makes them sure of themselves so that when things are going bad they can’t get distracted with what “might” happen next or lose sight of their goals on the journey… because they’re too busy just winning!
2. The best way to succeed is to set goals in a positive frame.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.” Setting positive goals in a positive frame leads to success. Athletes need to let go of their mistakes, focus on their strengths and set goals in a process not outcome oriented way – aiming for “do my best” rather than “win this game”.
3. You are the only one who can get yourself out of your own way.
You need to realize that negative thinking can be self-destructive, so try and replace it with positive thinking. That’s especially true if you tend to have a long attention span for the negative stuff (which most people do). The best way to change your thinking patterns is to have a positive trigger word in mind – a word that will remind you to put things in a positive frame of mind.
4. It’s all about the team: Don’t be afraid to be yourself and trust your own instincts.
A lot of athletes feel like they need to follow the behavior and the movement of other athletes around them – from their teammates and coaches … but this is often counter productive. As an athlete, you become part of a team – a team of millions. So athletes who are rigid and follow the vibe of their teammates and coaches can actually be blocking their own progress! Chances are, if you’re standing next to someone who is more talented than you, you’re going to get in the way.
So instead of trying to copy everyone else’s movements – which most people do – trust your own instincts and listen to what they tell you.
5. If your mind won’t support it then your body won’t perform it – so make mental practice an essential part of your training!
You have to see yourself or someone close to achieving success in order for that success to become real for you. So if you want to become a top athlete then work on your mental practice
– visualizing yourself going out there and performing at your best so that when you get on the field or court you are certain of success.
In sports psychology, the second most important variable for performance is belief. In other words, the mind-set of an athlete has a huge impact on their performance. It can be one of the biggest variables in determining success or failure.
6. Belief drives performance so use it when you want to succeed.
There are a lot of books on the market that teach athletes how to visualize themselves succeeding in sports, but most of them focus on visualization as a means of helping you achieve success. You need to remember that visualization has nothing to do with helping you achieve what you want – it’s how you get it (or not!) that’s important. Too many athletes misinterpret visualization as a means of achieving success – forgetting that if they don’t believe in their abilities first then there is no way they will succeed… Not only is it important to believe in yourself, but also in your teammates and your coaches.
7. Learn to replace negative self talk with positive self talk –
This is particularly strong in athletes who are working hard to improve their sports psychology skills and develop mental toughness as a person psychologically…
8. Break down intimidating negative thoughts into manageable parts
It’s easy to have a negative thought about something that happened in the past – “I can’t hit this ball, I’m going to hit it over the fence.” Or about something that’s happening now – “I’m not going to get past this goalie, he’s too good.” These are usually much more manageable than simply thinking that. We’re conditioned by our culture to think positively and with optimism – so take out your pessimism and make a positive declaration of intent: “I’m hitting this ball right now!” or “This goalie can’t stop me because I’m working on my power!”
9. Individualize your mental practice.
As an athlete, you’ll perform mental practice both before a game and after the game. This can include visualizing yourself coming out on top in the game – with the ball in your hands. It can also include visualizing yourself making positive statements to linger, like ‘I’m going to win this match’ or ‘I am tough right now’. You should also spend time after a game visualizing what it will be like when you’re successful or have won an award – then, when that time comes, you’ll be all set.
10. The most important thing is to work hard – but not to make too big of a deal about it! Do your best and move on…
If you don’t get the results that you want, then just do the next best thing and move on. The most important thing is to keep working hard and doing what works for you. If you can’t get your mind to focus, then your head will be filled with negativity and doubt.
Positive self talk, visualization, goal setting and mental practice are key sports psychology skills that can help athletes be mentally tough so they can succeed in sport. But remember – it’s not just about hard work – it’s always about how hard you work… which is why it’s so important to persist regardless of your performance!
Getting in the zone is an art. It is observable by all the great athletes in all sports. They have found something that works for them and it makes them feel powerful. Many of them also have a belief system about how and why it works for them that supports who they are as an athlete.
The next time you watch a game or go to one, look for the player that gets into the zone – they are usually playing with a lot of passion, they are usually doing what they love to do, and they look like they are having fun. Athletes like this often have a deep faith in their abilities through hard work and experience – which helps them get into their zone.