Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” Although his math was off, he was on track with the idea that there is more to sports and competition than just technical and physical skill.
North Texas is full of young and growing athletes who have access to a wide-range of training facilities and talented coaches. At the elite levels, the margin for victory is quite narrow. So, what may possibly set these talented athletes apart from each other? Mental Toughness.
An athlete’s advantage often comes from the mental side of the sport rather than the physical side. Young athletes who make it to the top levels of their sport all have excellent sport-related talent and technical skills. What makes the difference in getting ahead is having a good mental game, or the ability to handle the psychological pressures of competition.
So what does it mean to be mentally tough? Many high level athletes describe being mentally tough with statements like, “being committed,” “persevering,” or “hanging in there,” when things get challenging. These athletes do not allow themselves to get distracted by negative thoughts after an injury or big loss. Instead, they roll with the challenge, learn from their mistakes, and “dig deep” to maintain focus on the rest of the competition or the next event.
Athletes who are mentally tough do not allow pressure to get in the way of performance. They know how to:
Prepare for competition
Recover from mistakes
Confidently deal with unexpected challenges
Maintain a positive attitude at all times
Bottom line, mentally tough athletes have grit, or perseverance and passion, to work toward long term goals and achieve success despite the challenges that come up along the way. Although mental toughness may come naturally to some people, it can be learned!
Erica Force, Ph.D., has practiced as a licensed psychologist with a focus in sport psychology since 2012. Upon completion of her pediatric post-doctoral fellowship at TSRHC in 2015, she joined the Psychology team. Utilizing her credentialing as a Certified Sport Psychology Consultant, she practices primarily in the Sports Medicine Center.