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By Sean Van Staden

Columnist


Developing mental strength can lift your performance to the next level

Mental toughness is a skill you can develop and work on daily.


I hope you have enjoyed the month-long journey we have taken on how to take your sports performance to the next level in terms of personal evaluation, sports science training and nutrition, and today we will look at how to develop mental grit. What does it mean to have mental strength and how do you get it? Athletes all over the country are feeling vulnerable about themselves and their ability, and they fear for their future with time lost due to Covid lockdown putting them at a disadvantage. Such fears are valid and the world as we know it might…

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I hope you have enjoyed the month-long journey we have taken on how to take your sports performance to the next level in terms of personal evaluation, sports science training and nutrition, and today we will look at how to develop mental grit.

What does it mean to have mental strength and how do you get it?

Athletes all over the country are feeling vulnerable about themselves and their ability, and they fear for their future with time lost due to Covid lockdown putting them at a disadvantage.

Such fears are valid and the world as we know it might never be the same, so in order to survive and push forward you need to adapt and toughen up mentally.

This is why I created a series of articles to help you navigate these difficult times based on 17 years of sports science coaching experience.

ALSO READ: ‘Clean eating’ to fuel your body: Five tips to boost your performance

Mental toughness is a skill you can develop and work on daily, and here one of the top mental strength coaches and an international speaker, Dr Spencer
Wood, shares some of his insight into what makes a mentally tough player.

Excuses

Mentally tough players don’t find excuses for not playing well, losing a match or not playing at their best.

They seldom externalise their mistakes by blaming others, but rather accept that they are a part of the problem and work towards fixing that problem for future success.

Work ethic

Mentally tough players have an incredible work ethic and train in practice at the same intensity as they do in a game.

These types of players believe that every practice session deserves their very best input and keep striving to get better, irrespective of their talent or external “loved by the fans” status.

Mentally weak players have an inconsistent work ethic.

Coachability

Mentally tough players have great eye contact with their coaches when receiving instructions and rarely roll their eyes or disagree with their coach, nor do they pout or shrug at the coach even if they disagree with him or her.

Mentally tough players thrive on opportunities to get feedback to work on being better, while mentally weak players are often stubborn, self-centred, selfish and let their pride get in the way of being coachable.

ALSO READ: (No) sport in the time of Covid: How to get the edge on your competitors

Digging deep

A mentally tough player can find extra effort and energy when really challenging games require it, and especially when the team is tired.

Their actions inspire their teammates around them and set an example of “digging deep” which is infectious.

Mentally weak players often complain, make excuses and want to quit.

Never be afraid to fail

Mentally tough players understand that losing is part of the game but work twice as hard to make sure they learn from their mistakes. They believe failure is never fatal but rather a gift and an opportunity to learn and grow and do better.

The mentally tough often use failure as an internal motivator to keep pushing hard, no matter how painful the failure is.

Mentally weak players use failures to blame others, validate their negative thoughts about players or the team and amplify their ability to want to quit or change teams. They are afraid of failure, which prevents them from reaching their full potential.

Referees

Mentally tough players respect the referees’ or umpires’ calls without complaining, even with calls they disagree on.

The minute the call is made, mentally tough players are already thinking about the next play or action rather than focusing their attention on why they feel the referee was wrong.

Mentally weak players act in the right way only when the call is in their favour. They often lose focus, act out of frustration in defiance of the referee’s call and aren’t as fast to act in repositioning for the next play or next move.

 

Sean van Staden

Sean van Staden

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