Mental Toughness

Posted: September 25, 2013 by sammulderig in Announcement

To perform at a top level an athlete might find themselves hitting the gym daily, practicing fundamentals, and developing mechanics; all of which are a significant part of improving one’s performance. However, when game day arrives a true separation from being average and being great is  mental toughness. A strong mental game is underrated yet vital for an athlete’s success.

As a former collegiate softball player, I understand the importance of being mentally tough and how developing a tenacious mental game can be the deciding factor between a win and a loss. A major factor that can throw a player’s mental game off the tracks is the one thing every competitive athlete despises; failure. Failure is inevitable in every sport, and how an athlete responds to failure can define their career. When failure or the fear of failure occurs and emotions are high a player may become nervous, anxious, upset, or angry (I too was once a victim of these emotions). When these feelings begin to swell in your gut, put your blinders on, stay focused and do not let them stop you from accomplishing your goal to win.

In softball, a game where a player fails more than they succeed at the plate, many coaches preach about “having a short memory”.  The best players do not dwell on their failures, they learn from them and then forget about them. At times it may be hard to forget about a mistake because of negative reactions from a coach or teammate, this is where your mental toughness is utilized. When I make an error in the outfield, after the play is over, I pick a blade of grass and throw it. I tell myself as soon as I let go of the piece of grass that I’m done thinking about the previous error and I get ready for the next ball.

Mental toughness is all about having confidence in your ability. When you feel your mentality become shaky and  weak, tap into your confidence. Confidence comes from knowing that you did everything you could do to prepare to face your opponent. If you do not let failure erode your confidence then you are sure to have a vigorous mental game. Staying positive and confident in moments of weakness is the true test of an athlete.

Mental toughness truly separates the good from the great.  Working on mental toughness and having the ability to have a short memory is the most underrated attribute in sports.  If you are doubting yourself, think about times in your career when you have been successful and remember that you are only playing a game that you love.  Every athlete deals with doubting themselves but the athletes that have lengthy careers are the ones that bounce back from their failures.  Remember that you are always playing a game you love and try not to think too much.  Thinking about what will happen next is the worst thing you can do.  Envision your success and try to think about what you will do after you successfully reach first base or make a great play in the field.  You are always only play play away from breaking your slump so keep your head up.

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