“Mental toughness is your ability to keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing regardless of a situation, regardless of whether you’re physically or mentally fatigued. High-level sport is uncomfortable. We try to teach the athletes to be to be comfortable at being uncomfortable.”
That is the essence of how to build mental toughness, not just in sports, but in every facet of your life.
While there are many, many different definitions of mental toughness for sports, I found an excellent, to-the-point summation:
- Achieve relatively consistent performances regardless of situational factors;
- Retain a confident, positive, optimistic outlook, even when things are not going well, and not “choke” under pressure;
- Deal with distractions without letting them interfere with optimal focus;
- Tolerate pain and discomfort;
- Remain persistent when the “going gets tough”;
- Have the resilience to bounce back from disappointments;
What I like about the list for how to build mental toughness is its emphasis on behavior and how it impacts achievement. It focuses on how athletes respond when, as we call it, “the going gets tough.” It’s not so much about what happens to an athlete; it’s more about how they react. For example, how do you react to what you perceive to be a bad call by an official? Or, how do you react to being behind in a Competiton? Much of this answer goes back to your mental strength training.
We are going further on mental toughness for sports: “Most top athletes and coaches believe that psychological factors play as crucial a role as physical attributes and learned skills in the make-up of champions,”.
When physical skills are evenly matched – as they tend to be in competitive sport – the competitor with greater control over his or her mind will usually emerge as the victor. Mental strength is not going to compensate for lack of skill, but in close contests it can make the difference between winning and losing.