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Mental Skills Required for Sporting Success

While physical attributes play an important role in sporting success, it is the mental attitude and skills of the sportsperson that truly defines how great they become. There are athletes of all shapes and sizes playing every imaginable sport, but what defines all of the true sporting greats are their attitude and ability to use their mental skills to great advantage. These mental skills can be practiced over time to enhance the overall level of performance.

We are all familiar with the scenario where you have a young sportsperson who happens to be extremely big, strong, or quick, and when they begin playing, they excel. As they grow older, however, these attributes play less of a role in how well they succeed, and the mental side of their game becomes much more important in defining their progress. A bad attitude will ultimately lead to a lack of progress, and the top athletes almost always strive for excellence in all they do. Coinciding with this are issues such as substance abuse, lifestyle choices and diet. You cannot expect to achieve sporting excellence while not keeping your body in peak condition. Excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, and smoking are likely to leave you in a poor physical condition. Figures show that in 60 percent of school children between grade 9-12 in Pennsylvania have taken drugs such as marijuana, and this is why it is crucial for those wishing to pursue their interest in sports to make the right choices and stay away from these things. Success is defined by attitude, and drug taking is not the attitude of a high achiever.

Essential Mental Skills

Attitude: Successful athletes realize that attitude is a choice and something which they can decide. A good attitude can be created through positive choices being made time and again. They choose to use sport as a way to better themselves, and to bring out the best in their personality and give a positive account of themselves to their teammates, competitors, managers, and spectators.

Motivation: Successful athletes are able to use different forms of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to drive them towards success. They are not dependent on others motivating them to train hard and to work hard during games.

People Skills: Successful athletes understand that it is important to develop good people skills in order to progress both on and off of the field. Getting along well with and communicating to teammates, managers, and officials is important if you want to succeed. You simply cannot do it alone, which makes this a very important mental skill to work on if you are not naturally a people person.

Self Talk: All successful athletes are able to learn how to talk to themselves to create positive reinforcement and motivation during crucial times of competition. It can be extremely easy to become de-motivated and disgruntled when things are not going your way, but if you are able to develop the mental skills necessary to talk yourself back into performing well, you will do well for yourself.

Mental Imagery: Successful athletes use mental imagery to help boost motivation and performance. It plays a key role in performance, and is a mental skill that needs to be worked upon over a long period of time to create the best results. By visualizing yourself being successful in your sport and achieving goals, you create positive associations, and using mental imagery to help with learning new skills actually helps to create links between the mind and body, allowing you to learn a new skill more effectively.

Dealing with Emotions: Successful athletes are able to deal with their emotions in high-pressure situations. This is a skill that is important when you are faced with making key decisions at important stages of a game. Losing your temper, becoming overly emotional, and letting the situation get the best of you is only going to make your performance worse, so learning to control your emotions and channelling them in the right way is vital.

Concentration: A successful athlete is able to maintain a high level of concentration during the entire game. At key points in the game, it can be easy to become distracted by external factors such as the opposition, crowd, or weather, as well as internal distractions such as worrying about a mistake you made, or worrying about what is going to happen. Learning to concentrate solely on the here and now is what will make the real difference to your performance. 

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