Mental toughness is the ability to raise your level of performance on demand and in crucial situations. There are many athletes who have great athleticism or great mechanics but it is the athlete who is "mentally tough" who can raise their level of play at the right time. To reach peak performance during an athletic event the mentally tough athlete is able to reach an ideal state of performance. If you are too high or too low with your mental state you will not perform at your optimum level. This is a learned behavior that athletes can practice getting into their peak performance state. There are three factors; mental discipline, emotional discipline and physical discipline that you need to practice on.
Mental discipline equals keeping focused, alert, calm and fully present in the athletic event at hand. If you thinking about opponent's mistakes, losing, or other negative thoughts will erode your mental toughness. Practice thinking about being successful, positive imaging, and practice making the big shot at big times. Believe it! Many athletes have rituals that they go through either before or during a match. These can keep you focused on your present situation. Great competitors learn that emotional discipline bring a feeling of confidence, high energy, relaxation, fun and challenge themselves. If you lose your car keys before playing a match you will invariably be thinking about where are your keys during the match. If you are angry, fearful, disappointed, and nervous or have a feeling of helplessness you will not perform at your best. Even if you're not feeling well you should always practice carrying yourself with confidence so you can concentrate on better results. You need to be accountable for your results.
Physical discipline is simple. Work to keep your body fit by using diet, sleep, and rest to maintain peak performance. Don't let yourself become dehydrated during your match or let your blood sugar drop too low. You must keep physically fit if you're going to keep your mental and emotional toughness. If you get tired you cannot stay focused on your task at hand and you will not be emotionally strong enough to be mentally tough.
As you work to become more mentally tough you need to work on all three aspects of the mind/body relationship. This can be your biggest challenge in sport and you can continue to work on becoming the best that you can be. You will find out that in sport the quest to become the best competitor; the goal is not to conquer your opponent but to conquering yourself.
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