Your athlete shouldn’t be limited to physical conditioning alone. To be mentally well conditioned is just as important. Sally Tamarkin agrees. “Being mentally tough means that no matter how brutal the circumstances—whether it’s your 14th hour running through a desert in high temperatures or you’re halfway through a 400-rep workout that includes pull-ups and single-leg squats—you’re able to withstand the pain and suffering and perform to the best of your skills and talents, with a good time, high place, or even a win.”
On the day of the race, match or competition, your athlete has a head full of emotions, ideas, thoughts, fears and goals. If he is well conditioned mentally, he’ll know how to think and feel. This, coupled with his physical preparedness, will make him a winner.
In fact, if you ask expert trainers (and athletes), they’ll admit that the losses or failures are not always physical. Quite often, the athlete’s “mental game” is lacking somehow. So how do you know if your athlete is well conditioned, mentally?
Indicators that an athlete is mentally well conditioned
1. Set high (but realistic) goals
The athlete has both short- and long-term goals that are realistic and can be measured. They know well what their performance levels are, and have a plan for how to achieve their goals (and it’s specific!).
They also demonstrate serious commitment to this plan, their goals, and their training.
2. Are very self-motivated
The athlete has a strong sense of purpose in his sport. He’s not in it solely for the glory – he understands that the journey is as important (and as rewarding) as the destination. Says Dr Jack Lesyk:
- Are aware of the rewards and benefits that they expect to experience through their sports participation.
- Are able to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times, even when these rewards and benefits are not immediately forthcoming.
- Realize that many of the benefits come from their participation, not the outcome.”
3. Have a positive attitude
The athlete is generally positive. He sees his failures as opportunities for learning. His sport is where his passion and his talents collide, and he pursues excellence here. He is balanced, however, rather than taking his training to extremes that are not sustainable.
4. Have a high emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is about being able to identify one’s emotions, and then manage these effectively. A mentally conditioned athlete can identify his emotions, accept them and control them. This means even the strong emotions don’t get to him (and don’t spoil his game!).
5. Are able to visualise their success
This is a product of all the points we’ve just discussed. Essentially, it talks to the athlete’s ability to imagine themselves performing at their best. These visualisations are specific, and don’t just focus on the glory of winning. These also include the athlete’s strategy for dealing with errors or failures.
6. Don’t let anxiety get them
Everybody gets a little anxious in a stadium full of cheering fans… However, a mentally powerful athlete recognises and accepts the anxiety, and instead of allowing it to take over, they know how to manage it. They also know how to channel it, so it helps them perform better.
7. Can concentrate and focus
A mentally adept athlete has practised mindfulness, or the ability to be in there ‘here and now’. With this skill, they’re able to focus on the present action. They know how to resist distractions, and how to focus on the elements that need their attention. They can set aside all the other stuff, to give their sport their full attention.
If your athlete has all these abilities an qualities, then he’s a superstar! If not, then consider spending more time on his mental abilities.
If you’re considering a career as a sports coach, then keep in mind that becoming a sports coach requires specialised knowledge and a multitude of expert skills. Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Coaching Science Certificate offers a scientifically-based, integrated approach to coaching that will help you to develop top sports performers and master the science behind sports coaching. Want to learn more?