MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING FOR SPORTS
ATHLETIC EXCELLENCE: MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING FOR SPORTS (1985) by James E. Loehr
I’m not playing “not to lose” anymore. I still want to perform to my best, to break that new record, to walk away victorious, but something very important has changed. My focus now is simply the MOMENT…I savor the moment. Every moment of every performance is something to be totally experienced and totally enjoyed. I simply seize the moment for what it is and, whenever I do that, I begin immediately to experience a sense of calm, strength, and energy that continues to amaze me…As long as what I am doing at that moment is precisely what I am doing at that moment, everything happens naturally. I don’t have to try to get psyched or try to concentrate or try to perform well. I just do. And when I’m there I have the energy to burn. If you try too hard you force it and there is a difference between trying harder and giving 100%. I’ve always been my own toughest opponent and I suppose I always will be.
If mental skills represent at least 50% of the process of playing, why do coaches and athletes spend only 5-10% of their time working on these skills?
MENTAL TOUGHNESS IS LEARNED, NOT BORN: Self-motivated and self-directed, positive but realistic, in control of emotions, calm & relaxed under fire, highly energetic and ready for action, determined, mentally alert and focused, doggedly self-confident, fully responsible.
When the final moment of truth finally arrives, the deciding factor will always be the same. It will be your INNER STRENGTH that makes the ultimate difference: you will always be your own Toughest Opponent, so focus on doing the best that you can.
Focusing on winning and losing the external contest all too frequently leads to performance paralysis martial arts has so much of this. Fears of winning and losing quickly lead to muscle tightness, excessive anxiety, and poor concentration. “Winning the contest with yourself” rarely leads to such performance problems.
Three test questions at the end of every play or practice:
- 1) I gave my best effort every moment. I gave 100%.
- 2) I maintained a predominantly positive, healthy and optimistic attitude.
- 3) I accepted full responsibility for me today, for what I did and didn’t do (didn’t blame
others, weather, bad equipment, cheating opponent or anything else).
- 4) Winning the contest with yourself is hard work. It is truly the ultimate challenge.
- 5) You must realize that you can succeed with yourself every day. This is precisely how
you build success, the most satisfying and fulfilling of all—the conquest of self.
1) Self-discipline./self-control/self-confidence/self-realization. Once you believe in yourself
and feel good about you, the doors are opened to becoming your fullest potential.
“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”—John Wooden
AET=> Athletic Excellence Training Model
- Mental toughness is learned, not born
- The ultimate measure of mental toughness is consistency
- Excepting the influence of physical factors, performance consistency is the result of
- The extent to which individuals or teams will perform toward an upper range of their
talent and skill largely depends on the success they have in creating and maintaining a
particular kind of mental climate within themselves.
- Excepting the influence of physical factors, the level of performance of individuals or
teams is an accurate reflection of the kind of internal climate existing within the
- An ideal internal performance climate exists for every athlete and team. This is referred
to as the Ideal Performance State.
- The component elements of the IPS are fundamentally the same for all athletes and across
- The IPS is most accurately described in terms of specific feeling states experienced by
the individual performers
- The most important mental skills required in competitive sport are those associated with
creating and maintaining the IPS during play
- Mental toughness requires a high degree of control over the IPS. The more you practice
the better you get.
The real test comes when the pressure is really on, when the world is against you, when everything has turned upside down. It is here that you come face to face with the limits of your mental strength.
Your level of performance is a direct reflection of the way you feel inside…Mental toughness is the ability to create and maintain the right kind of internal feeling regardless of the circumstances. The most important thing you can do to perform to your best at the time is to create a particular feeling climate within yourself and maintain it, NO MATTER WHAT.
Twelve distinct feeling categories for performing optimally: physically relaxed, mentally calm, low anxiety, energized, optimistic, enjoyment, effortless, automatic, alert, mentally focused, self- confident, in control.
Nobody plays when they’re feeling the pressure: the difference is those who can or cannot eliminate the pressure. Thinking the wrong thoughts can quickly lead to pressure problems.
- Instead of thinking “What if I don’t do well?!” or “If I don’t do it now, I’ll lose everything” choose one of these Samples:
- “I’m just going to do the best I can and let the cards fall where they may”
- “I’m simply going to focus on doing my job the best I know how”
- “I’m going to have fun out there, no matter what”
- “Pressure is something I put on myself”
- “Even if I’m not the greatest today, it won’t be the end of the world”
- Winning and losing is for the fans; I simply perform and feel great doing that”
- I love tough situations; the tougher the situation the better I perform”
- I’m going to be OK—no matter what
- Is this a threat or a challenge?
Start loving adversity—that is what makes you a champion! You gotta love it!
Do you have rituals that help to get you feeling loose, confident, energized, etc.? Every good performer has rituals. Let overwhelming feelings of pressure trigger your determination, inspiration, challenge, and positiveness. Transform adversity and pressure into challenge, inspiration, opportunity—that begins in your head. Intensity is simply high energy.
Joy, fun, love, challenge, optimism, determination, enjoyment become calm mental state, attentional control, relaxed muscles become high level performance. Negativity erodes INNER STRENGTH. I accept full responsibility for myself. I simply focus on doing the very best I can at every moment. Mistakes are feedback and a necessary part of learning anything well. I’m willing to pay the price to be successful by striving to have fun no matter what and enjoying myself as I perform. I always give my best effort, reducing negativity as it arises. If I don’t make mistakes I won’t learn. Repeat often: “I can do that” “I am getting more disciplined” “I love adversity” I’m feeling more relaxed and calm” I’m feeling inspired and stronger” “I can”
Live without fear…Pillars of mental toughness: motivation, self-confidence, attentional focus, coping with pressure
Successful use of mental skills: mental preparation, imagery, goal-setting, self-talk, training Relaxation Strategies: progressive relaxation, relaxation response, slow down, use breath control
To change mindsets: “I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong or winners and losers, but rather into learners and non-learners.” Benjamin Barber
Ben-Shjahar says we only learn mental toughness by actually experiencing failure, by living through it. As J. K. Rowling says, “tested by adversity to find our strengths and self-knowing.”
For your finest hour:
Prepare your strategies as exercises: visualization is one of the most powerful mental training strategies available to performers: it is nothing more than the systematic practice of creating and strengthening strong positive mental images. (i.e., positive image programming). A learned skill. Visualization is the connecting link between mind and body in performance. Establish a regular visualization practice routine which rehearses helpful mental and emotional responses to difficult situations that may arise during performance—no substitute for hard work but physical practice is only half the battle. Start thinking in positive pictures in as much detail as possible in colour. Work to eliminate the failure images and replace them with successful ones of you staying confident, calm, and positive as well as productive. Many short sessions of five minutes each are better than one or two long ones. Use your imagination to set long-term, intermediate, and short- term goals. Become an artist at managing negative energy.
Being mentally prepared simply means NEVER BEING SURPRISED BY ANYTHING.
- Muscles relaxed
- Calm & quiet
- Low anxiety
- High energy
- Highly enjoyable
- In control
- Playing well visualization
- Resilience of emotional control
- Refuse to worry, feel winning feelings…say “Stop” if negative thought arises.
- One Objective: to create and sustain your Ideal Performance State NO MATTER WHAT
- Act “As If” in adversity
- Work hard to develop and maintain the physical presence of a champion—no matter how
- Choose a mantra to say over and over again in rhythm with your breathing to focus: it is
your mental target: such as “Calm”, or “Feel no pressure” or See it” or “play”
- STAY WITH IT—you are developing a new set and higher level of skills.