It is said that as you advance in your career as an athlete, the gap in physical ability from athlete to athlete gets smaller. So if two athletes are both gifted with similar traits athletically, what is going to be the difference from the athlete that becomes a star and the other that fades away? The answer is mental toughness. How mentally tough are you? How hard are you willing to work and study your craft? How many sacrifices are you willing to make? It’s a lot to think about, especially if you are a younger athlete just starting out. There is no measuring stick to see how much heart someone has or how mentally tough they are. It is shown through dedication, discipline and devotion. These attributes can be developed and improved just like any other habit. Just like becoming a great athlete physically, it takes time to develop these mental traits in your life.
Being dedicated to your sport begins with showing up and working hard. Are you willing to make the sacrifices to be a part of the select few that are dedicated to being their absolute best? How much dedication one is willing to put forth is different from athlete to athlete. I remember when I was a young athlete practicing my ball handling and shooting skills for basketball in the dead of winter in New England with snow on the ground. I could barely feel my finger tips when I headed in the house to get a quick drink of water. I was dedicated to being my best and not making excuses that there was nowhere to practice because it was cold outside or the gym was not open. I set a goal and I was dedicated to accomplishing it.
Being discipline means you will follow your coach and trainers instructions even when no one is around to check on you. None of my coaches or teammates knew that I was practicing that day and none of them needed to know. It says on the schedule that you are going to go through the drill 50 times, then you go through the drill until it’s done. There are many different examples that anyone could apply to their own life, that is just one that comes to mind about mine. Another example could be its 5 AM and you do not want to get out of bed to train because no one will know, guess what, you better get out of bed because you are the one that has to look yourself in the mirror. When you did not prepare food for the day the night before, are you going to eat healthy, clean meals or just cheat because you do not have the discipline to eat nutritious meals. All these examples show the difference between what it takes to be discipline.
Being devoted is about giving of yourself for the team. It isn’t only about you. Are you committed to your team and their success? If you are asked to fill a smaller roll for a play are you still going to give it your all? Does winning come before your numbers? Devotion is there or it isn’t, it is not something that you can give half an effort. If you are devoted to something, you believe in it wholeheartedly. Failure is not an option.
Mentally tough athletes are able to deal with the ups and downs, the controversy and the doubters, yet still persevere. Being mentally tough is the ability to take criticism and make yourself better, to have challenges and overcome and to fight through whatever comes your way and come out the other end better for it. Are you mentally tough?
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
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