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9 Mental Skills Every Athlete Must Master to Be Successful

Posted: Nov 10 2015

9 Mental Skills Every Athlete Must Master to Be Successful


As we mentioned in a previous post, there are many aspects to mental preparation.  Certainly visualizing one’s own future success on game/competition day is part of it.  But in fact according to the latest research in sports psychology, there are actual mental skills that athletes need to master over time in order to achieve success in their chosen sport. In fact all of these attributes are not only important for athletic success, but they are in fact transferable to most if not every other area of your life.


Psychologists (specifically sports psychologists) have identified 9 mental skills or attributes that successful athletes need to master in order to achieve success in their chosen sport.   These are skills that individuals, even if they do not necessarily have a handle on a few of these, can learn to master over time through preparation, repetition and exposure to challenging situations (aka, a variety of competitive and life experiences.


So in no particular order, here are 9 mental attributes every athlete in the making should master in order to be better able to handle competitive stress and be successful in competition.


1)  Choosing and maintaining a positive attitude:  Successful athletes choose to maintain an inherently positive attitude and realize that the attitude they project is a choice they make.


2)   Maintain a high level of self-motivation:  Successful athletes are aware of the rewards and benefits that they expect to experience through participation in their respective sport.  They are able to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times, even when these rewards and benefits are not immediately forthcoming. 


3) Set High But Realistic Goals:  Successful athletes set long and short term goals that are realistic, measurable and time-specific.  Moreover, they are aware of their current performance levels, and are able to develop specific, detailed plans for attaining their goals. More importantly, they are committed to their goals in order to carry out the training they feel will get them towards achieving them. 


4)  Effectively Deal WIth People:  Any athlete worth his/her salt realize that they are part of a larger support network that includes their families, friends, teammates, coaches, and others.  A strong network such as this can help burgeoning athletes balance perspective and help them to learn effective skills for dealing with conflict, difficult opponents and other negative or confrontational situations.


5)  Use Positive Self-Talk:  In order to maintain their self-confidence and regulate their thoughts and emotions within the realm of a competition.


6)  Positive Mental Imagery:  As we went through earlier, it’s important to create detailed specific mental images in order to imagine, and visualize one achieving success/victory in whichever arena.  Being able to visualize a future triumph


7)  Manage Anxiety Effectively: One needs to accept that experiencing some anxiety is a normal part of competing.  Knowing how to deal with nerves can be a significant part of help athletes prepare more effectively, as too much anxiety can be detrimental in terms of dealing with in-competition moments.  To that end, it is clearly beneficial to develop coping mechanisms in order to deal with moments like these.


8)  Effectively Manage Their Emotions: Strong emotions in any sense are a normal part of competing, and leveraging them in key moments can help one to overcome adversity or perform better


9)  Maintain Concentration: One must learn how to maintain complete focus in in-game situations, and know how to maintain focus/resist distractions in key moments.


Now that you hopefully realize just how important mental preparation is for athletes, as well as what it entails, we will soon address other physical aspects of competitive athletic preparation.  However, we feel that it is so important that athletes don’t lose sight of how important mental preparation is for competitive athletic success, we would be remiss if we did not address the finer points of athletes being better mentally prepared, specifically on game day.  This is what we will do in our next post.

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