Sport Psychology/Mental Preparation

Some say competition is an acceptable method for venting aggression. Others believe it exposes strengths and weaknesses in personalities. There is little doubt that the heat of battle exposes a competitor's weakest points. If an athlete's personality is negative, he may turn against himself in a contest. His hidden vulnerabilities become apparent.

Competition is connected to his image. A physically strong, athletic competitor who works hard may look great in training; but in his event he may fade at the first sign of trouble. His fighting spirit diminishes, and he looks helpless. He loses confidence. The composed and rational side of his personality suddenly vanishes. It is replaced by rage, aggression, whining, or helplessness. His best friends may fail to recognize him in a match.

How mentally tough you are is an important question whose answer largely defines how successful you'll be in competition says Jim Loehr, Ed.D. No matter how tough you are, or how hard you try; there are probably a few chinks in your competitive armor which may range from excess anxiety to decreased confidence. Whatever these gaps or breaks are, they invariably block your ability to perform to your potential.

How well you control your mind determines why some choke or go crazy and others remain calm and focused. Overcoming emotional weakness is the toughest hole to dig out of, especially if your defects overwhelm you. Turn your deficiencies into functional outcomes. Start by cataloging your weaknesses. Do you get too nervous? Do you get angry? Establish a code of behavior so your anxiety or fury cannot surface. Then change your anxiety into energy and your anger into competitive zeal. Finally, look at a "raw deal" as a challenge.

Mentally tough contenders view competition as alluring. They have lives in and out of their sport. Self-image is not based on winning or losing. If they lose, there is another tournament. After a win there is celebration, and life goes on. They don't care so much about what others think. Their self-worth comes from within. Mentally tough competitors are spiritually centered. They slow down to absorb the present. They understand that competition is part of the journey. Matches are simply a measure of improvement.They enjoy the adrenalin rush of the moment. A win leads to another, building confidence and inner strength. There are no worries. The aura of triumph lasts for days, months, and years depending on the significance of the victory. Blow-by-blow action is replayed in the theater of the mind.

Mental Toughness Tips

1. Stay pumped up even when you are tired or discouraged.

2. Act "as if" you are winning even if you are losing.

3. Stay relaxed and loose during breaks in the action.

4. Plan your strategy prior to each event.

5. Follow the same rituals before beginning each game.

6. The faster and more furious it gets, the more you love it.

7. Thrive on having fun.

8. Stay positive no matter how bad the match gets.

9. Be acutely tuned into your competition.

10. Project a confident image regardless of the score.

11. Toughness is More Important than Talent: Time and again I see well-schooled competitors lose to scrappy ones.

12. You Can Get Tough At Any Age: I see players well into their forties competing and winning against much younger opponents.

13. Keep Your Toughness Skills Sharp: On any given day anyone can be beaten. Be tougher than your opponent.

14. By increasing awareness of your mental strengths and weaknesses, you'll be better equipped to consistently perform toward the upper range of your ability.