An athletes ability to maintain self-control throughout training and competition is of the utmost importance. A mentally strong competitor will be able to display command over their emotions even in the face of adversity. While competing there is no doubt that the contestant will have ups an downs. As the level of competition increases so does the degree of pressure. The mentally tough athlete will be able to remain focused to the task at hand and positive especially during times of difficulty. Mental toughness is often what separates the champion from the also ran.
Control- Ones ability to maintain control over their emotions and free from distraction or outside influences.
Anxiety and anger are the two key components which most often cause the athlete to lose their self control and make it difficult for them to manage their emotions.
Anxiety can manifest in two different forms:
- Physical Anxiety – Nausea-upset stomach or butterflies, sweating.
- Mental Anxiety – Losing focus or lack of concentration, thinking negative thoughts, worrying about the task or outside issues.
Anxiety although completely natural can be lessened by teaching the athlete relaxation techniques. The athlete can practice breathing methods to help relax and bring down their heart rate. A second skill to help bring down the level of anxiety is through the practice of positive visualization. The athlete can visualize themselves in situations in which they succeed or learn how to cope with circumstances which may occur.
Anger is another emotion which can cause the athlete to lose control. Often times anger or frustration arises in an athlete do to outside influences such as an officials call or from a mistake made by a teammate. These are both common issues in athletics and something a competitor must learn to deal with. The athlete must recognize that he/she is not totally in control of every aspect of game, and must not allow events (such as a poor call, or turnover by a teammate) to effect their concentration and to cause them to lose control.