Mind Over Sports

WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN AN ATHLETE IS “MENTALLY TOUGH?”

Posted on: May 30, 2013

I’m so tired of reading in the media about coaches who are always looking for athletes who are physically tough and mentally tough. “Physically tough” I can understand because Tiger Woods has demonstrated to the entire golf world the importance of being in good physical condition. But being “mentally tough” is an entirely different issue. When I searched the Internet here’s what I found: “It means you should be able to handle any negative thoughts, comments, etc. – your mind has to be fixed and nothing should make you waver.” One comment related it to “self-confidence” which is closer to what I believe. After 26 years working with athletes and sports teams, I’ve found that athletes who have high self-esteem and feel good about themselves are those who are more mentally tough than other athletes who may be withholding their feelings and issues instead of discussing them openly. Athletes who have a high sense of inner-self are more focused, and have few negative thoughts because thoughts are reflections of feelings of self-worth. Athletes with high self-esteem have almost no negative thoughts; those with low self-esteem are often loaded with them. If a coach is looking for an athlete who is “mentally tough” one of the most reliable indicators is eye contact. Good eye contact is a sign of high self-esteem and there’s a pretty good chance that a person with good eye contact was reared in a loving, nurturing home environment. Or if not, then there was someone in that person’s life who loved them unconditionally, such as a spouse, a professor, a coach, or a grandmother.

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