Sports Psychology: Mental Toughness



So continuing on from my first post on sports psychology let’s examine the importance of mental toughness in a successful athlete. It is applicable to life as well, especially when facing serious adversity. A definition from the previous post says:

Mental toughness is a psychological edge that helps one perform at a high level consistently. Mentally tough athletes exhibit four characteristics: a strong self-belief (confidence) in their ability to perform well, an internal motivation to be successful, the ability to focus one’s thoughts and feelings without distraction, and composure under pressure.

When I first started barrel racing I was extremely anxious. I wanted to do well, there were people watching, and I was new to racing. All that made me nervous. When I made my run it would be like I blacked out and I wouldn’t be able to focus or really remember what happened. I just kind of haphazardly went in and made my run. We didn’t go fast and we didn’t get great results.

Today before a race I feel very calm and focused. I sometimes still make mistakes, but I am conscious throughout my run and am in the moment. Afterwards I know what happened, what went right and where I made mistakes. Not to say that videos aren’t still helpful! But it is a stark contrast from when I started.

Making mistakes during a run can also throw riders off. Being confident, keeping emotions from taking over after a mistake and visualizing doing so before a run can aid greatly in recovering and preventing a mistake from ruining a run. Look over this list of strategies for building mental toughness for some tips:


The website Strong Athlete’s article “Mental Toughness: The Winning SECRET of Elite Athletes” lists five techniques in achieving mental toughness:

1. Accepting Failure

2. Mental Rehearsal

3. Success Imaging

4. Goal Setting

5. Support Team

The support team is a unique component to examine in the formula of success, not just in sports, but in life.

Strong Athlete’s article expands on the support team saying:

Mental toughness can come from within but it can also come from outside. Having the right individuals around you is critical to achieving success. Always surround yourself with like-minded people who are as driven as you are to push hard, be the best, and achieve success. Negative people, or the “haters” as they are sometimes referred to serve no purpose in your life. Eliminate them and there’s nothing holding you back. Having a strong support team such as your family and friends is also great for defining purpose. Not only will you want to succeed for yourself, you will also want to succeed for them and that is a remarkably powerful motivator.

Do you have the right people around you in your support team? It can be very difficult to maintain a positive mentality, even if it comes naturally, if you have the wrong people around you. Being able to recognize and let go of these unhealthy relationships can make a huge difference in your overall success. I learned this after losing my husband, having the right people around you is one of most important things in life.

So, where does your mental toughness stand? Do you see areas where you could improve?


I hope you have a new interest in sports psychology and how it could impact your success, in competition and in life.

Never Give Up!



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