Mental toughness. It’s a “buzz word” that our athletes are hearing again and again. But what is it, exactly? And more importantly…how do you get it?
Arguably, one of the biggest components of mental toughness is confidence. In sport psychology, we often refer to the term self-efficacy. Similar to the bigger idea of confidence, self-efficacy is a situation-based confidence that arises from one’s belief in his or her ability to complete a specific task. Self-efficacy influences our motivation. When we feel confident, we can succeed; we pursue those particular activities in hopes of feeling accomplished.
So it makes sense that past success encourages future success. When an athlete scores a goal, makes a game-winning pass, or successfully executes a newly learned skill, they are more likely to attempt those things again. Just like it’s natural to avoid potential situations of failure because failure make us feel bad, it’s natural to be drawn to potentially successful situations because success makes us feel good. Finding activities that encourage success for our athletes is critical. When they can recognize changes in their progress and achieve, self-efficacy increases.
This is not to say that athletes will never experience failure. Failure is an inherent part of sport, and as we’ve all heard – we learn from our mistakes. Failure is productive when an athlete’s skill is fostered in an environment of support. Coaches, teammates, and family can make all the difference. The idea is to promote a sport culture of learning and healthy competition. Then, when mistakes occur, the athlete can seize the opportunity for growth and enter back into the cycle of success and increased efficacy.
For more information on this Mental Toughness, look into the below:
Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy
Vealey’s sport specific model of sport confidence
Harter’s competence motivation theory
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