Mental toughness is critical for success in sports, and how you develop your mind will directly impact how well you play your sport—for better or worse.
Resiliency, the fifth and final pillar of athletic mental toughness, is defined as the ability to handle stress, adversity and failure.
Regardless of how talented you are, there will be days when things don’t go right. This is where character develops. You either overcome the adversity or succumb to it. When you learn ways to deal with stress and adversity, you improve your chances for athletic excellence in many important ways.
A simple drink of water can help you bounce back following a bad play or missed opportunity.
Athletes who become upset easily and allow their emotions to take over usually end up playing below their potential. In other words, it’s your choice what to do the next time you drop a ball, strike out or miss an open shot. Do you view negative events as threats to your athletic development, or as challenges
to make yourself better the next time the situation occurs?
Feeling sorry for yourself, throwing tantrums or taking your aggression out on others won’t help, but learning from your experiences will. Furthermore, creating a bounce-back technique will help in moments of failure and frustration.
A bounce-back technique is a ritual you perform in the heat of a game, one that allows you to quickly turn things around in your mind. For example, if you play a sport outdoors on natural grass, after a bad play you might bend over and pinch a few blades of grass and throw them into the wind—as a symbol for letting that last play go. Your choice of bounce-back technique is up to you, but it should be quick, unobtrusive and, most important, linked in your mind to letting the last bad play go.
Knowing in advance what you will do when failure occurs will prepare you to respond in a constructive way when you do come up short. This doesn’t mean you should think constantly about future failure, but rather, that you should be prepared and ready to bounce back when it happens.
Dr. Chris Stankovich is a licensed professional clinical counselor and the founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, a counseling and performance center based in Columbus, Ohio. He offers performance-enhancement assistance to athletes, teams and coaches in areas of athletic improvement, wellness, leadership, life skills and career development. Learn more about Dr. Stankovich’s work by visiting his website, drstankovich.com