(Part 1 of a series
of articles on mental training)
Mental toughness! What does it mean to a competitive athlete?
Can anyone be mentally tough, and if so, how?
The discussion on mental toughness has been part of sport performance
since the first two individuals decided to compete against each other.
In the past 15 to 20 years however, interest in this issue has intensified.
More and more athletes at all levels of ability are realizing that mental
toughness is critical to their physical performance.
Mental toughness means commitment - going to practice on a regular basis,
prepared to work hard. It means you go for training runs on days
when jogging is the last thing you want to do. Mental toughness
is being part of the short corner defensive team with the attitude that,
no matter what, the ball will not even reach the net. Mental toughness
is the ability to remain completely focused and composed when you are
part of the penalty stroke competition to decide a winner. Mental
toughness is an attitude. You take it with you into every situation.
Everyone has some degree of mental toughness. We all have a point
at which we falter -when a situation begins to negatively affect our performance.
Here is the first indicator that mental toughness is being challenged.
Anyone can train to improve their current level of mental toughness.
The most common techniques include visualization, relaxation, energization,
self-talk and goal setting. Of these, visualization is the most
Visualization is the process of seeing in your mind what you want to accomplish.
A common form is what typically happens after a game, when you sit around
with your teammates discussing certain great plays (or bad plays) made
during the game. What's really happening is that you are using visualization
to re-create what happened on the field.
You can use this same technique to prepare yourself for an upcoming game.
Visualize yourself in various situations (especially ones in which you
often find yourself rattled). See yourself responding the way you
would like. Visualize the kinds of plays you wish to make, how you
want to respond to different challenges. Visualization is a simple
way of building confidence, of connecting your physical performance with
your mental idea of a champion!
With time and practice, the skill of visualization can become a powerful
tool to help you improve your athletic performance!
Roger Friesen works as an educator and consultant in the area of Sport
Psychology. He has worked as a mental training consultant for athletes
at all levels in various sports. Roger has worked closely with the
Canadian Men's National Field Hockey team for the past 3 years.