The Power of Mental Toughness
On the surface, mental toughness is a skill that most athletes acknowledge but underneath the surface, few athletes notice its presences until it's too late. I've heard countless coaches and parents point out to their players how much better they are compared to their competition. For example, parents have said things such as "you're way stronger than her" or "your game is way better than his". The truth is that in many cases these coaches and parents are incorrect as they are only noticing what is visible to the naked eye. If this were the case then every game, match, race, tournament, competition, etcetera would be a more obvious choice as who will become victorious. In many cases, it's the athletes who are far stronger and more talented who end up losing. This then frustrates the athlete and their team more.
What is the solution?
There isn't a simple one-step process to this; however, the first step is very straightforward. In order to more accurately assess the level of the other athlete or team's mental toughness, we must place mental toughness at the same level of respect as their physical, technical, and tactical skills. When athletes and their teams take this skill more seriously they are then able to approach upcoming competitions more accurately. In addition, athletes will feel less pressure in tough situations because they will recognize their opponent's hidden strength; therefore, increasing their own emotional control because they will be less judgemental of their own mistakes.
Remember, Mental toughness is a skill!
Just like working on technical skills, athletes must work on their mental skills daily. Skills such as concentration, positivity, structured routines, mindset, and more. Forgoing these skills only sets up athletes for far more challenging future situations than necessary as they are at a significant disadvantage both mentally and emotionally.
Accept that many athletes out there are mentally tougher than you and you will need to commit to working on your mental game as you already do for other parts of your performance. Let's think about this for a moment. If your opponent is weaker than you in every technical and physical area yet you are still struggling with him or her then they must be far more skilled in another area right? Yes, that is their level of mental toughness. Once you accept this situation, it will be easier to be more patient throughout the learning and training process of increasing your own mental strength and before you know it, your mental toughness will go from a weakness to a strength.
So there you have it, it's not always what you see but more often it's about what you don't see that ends up hurting performance in the end. Make sure to respect an athlete or team's mental toughness just like you do with any technical skills or physical strength. With this in mind, you will be able to move past the struggle emotionally and be ready to channel all of your energy into the process no matter what the situation.