Developing Mental Toughness


‘When two athletes of equal physical skill and ability compete with each other, the one who I better mentally prepared is the winner. It even happens that an athlete perfectly prepared physically loses against a physically weaker but mentally stronger opponent.’

Dariusz Nowicki (1997)


Growth of the mental toughness required and shown in competitive actions should be developed concurrently with, and on the basis of, the improvement of physical abilities and skills. The physical and mental facets of training are joined at the hip, and so are emotions and the physical changes accompanying them. For instance, imitating different emotional expressions causes the bodily changes, such as fluctuations in heart and breath rate, that are typical for a given emotion.

This has practical use as one of the means of prompting the emotional state optimal for peak performance. Mental training has the objective of developing a strong will and the basic mental skills essential in sports and in all types of human activity. The basic mental abilities are control of concentration and the capacity to relax physically and mentally. Strong will is advanced by overcoming difficulties. The complications have to be overcome methodically, not occasionally, and the greater than before degree of difficulty should not make them impossible to overcome. An individual must be educated to carry out the training or competitive undertaking.

It must become a habit to always finish a task and to be reliable. An individual must be persuaded that there are no easy shortcuts to triumph, and as this success comes closer the grade of difficulty of effort escalates. Carrying out a task to the end is particularly difficult in competition. Impartial and subjective conditions may stand in the way of finishing the competitive task. Not completing competitive tasks lets the individual pick up a lack of obligation that results in a habit of stopping to struggle as soon as the degree of difficulty increases. This is how mental barriers are fashioned. One of the methods of disabling psychological barriers is to fruitfully complete a competitive exercise under the same circumstances (in the same location, on the same contraption) as in the preceding fruitless performance.


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