The Mental Game & The Successful Athlete

What does it mean to be a “successful athlete?” It doesn’t mean you have to be an Olympic champion or even a professional athlete. You don’t have to own a bunch of championship titles or medals. Anyone has the capability of being a successful athlete. But what does it take? For one, the athlete must find something that is important enough to them that they choose to commit completely with their mind, body, and spirit, striving to be the best that they can possibly be. They continuously set high, long term goals, as well as achievable short term goals. They become successful because they are always chasing their goals while enjoying their sport. 

According to the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology, there are nine specific mental skills that contribute to success in sports. These mental skills can all be learned and practiced:

  1. Choose and maintain a positive attitude 
  2. Maintain a high level of self-motivation
  3. Set high, realistic goals
  4. Deal effectively with people
  5. Use positive self-talk
  6. Use positive mental imagery 
  7. Manage anxiety effectively
  8. Manage their emotions effectively
  9. Maintain concentration

If the athlete can keep these mental skills in check, their mental, physical, and emotional states will skyrocket, and, as a result, their performance record should follow. They will show more confidence, enthusiasm, leadership, and exude positive energy.

The nine mental skills can be broken up further into levels. Jack J. Lesyk, a Doctor in Sport Psychology, states that these nine skills can be placed into a “performance pyramid” with three levels. “Level I – These mental skills constitute a broad base for attaining long-term goals, learning, and sustaining daily practice. They are needed on a day-by-day basis for long periods of time, often months and years. Level II – These skills are used immediately before performance to prepare for performance. They maybe used just before competition begins, or immediately before a specific performance action, such as a golf shot or a free throw in basketball. Level III – These skills are used during actual performance behavior (Lesyk). 

Each level is heavily dependent on the previous level. The level above cannot exist without the level below. 

Next time you enter into the gym, take these mental skills into consideration. Ask yourself: Do I model a successful athlete? Am I a “successful athlete” inside and outside of the gym?

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