Its the ultimate sporting event the Olympic Winter Games. From the lighting of the Olympic Flame to the closing ceremonies, its an event I look forward to every four years. This year the Games will bring together around 6,000 athletes from 85 countries, each one hoping to take home gold and prove theyre the best in their sport.
For fans of the Olympics like me, the Games are a chance to see amazing shows of athletic prowess. But to get to the Olympics takes more than knowing how to ski down a mountain, twirl in the air or shoot a puck. Each of these world class athletes have had to rely on their mental strength to help them get to where they are.
The mental skills required to be a successful athlete are about as diverse as the athletes themselves, but Dr. Jack Lesyk from the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology points to a few key skills shared successful athletes.
1. Positive attitude: Successful athletes aim for excellence, not perfection. They realize that no person or athlete, including him or herself, is perfect. By shooting for excellence, there is room to learn from successes and failures and to look at their sport and their competitors with a high degree of respect. They are also able to find balance between their lives and their sport.
2. Positive self-talk: When they have bad days or the competition becomes intense, successful athletes are able to dig down deep and talk to themselves as if they were talking to a friend and put things into perspective. They use this internal conversation as a way to maintain their confidence and keep their emotions in check.
3. Self-Motivation: There are days in just about every athletes career when they want to throw in the towel. But what sets the great ones apart is their ability to motivate themselves to keep going. They are clear about why they are involved in their sport and the rewards that come along with it, and that these benefits come not with winning, but by showing up every day.
4. Manage Emotions: In every sport there are going to be good days and bad days. Emotions run hot and cold. In order to be successful long-term, an athlete has to be able to control those emotions. They realize that the good and bad are all part of the experience as a whole, and they know how to use these various emotions to drive them to additional success.
5. Effective People Skills: Even in individual sports, a successful athlete knows theyre not alone. They have to rely on family, friends, fellow athletes and coaches in order to be successful themselves. This means being able to communicate their thoughts and to be able to take feedback from others. And, in any sport there is going to be conflict. A successful athlete knows how to handle difficulties in a positive way.
These five traits only touch the surface of mental skills needed to be a successful athlete. Some other traits Dr. Lesyk points to include using mental imagery, goals and commitment, ability to deal with anxiety, and strong concentration skills.
Whether youre an athlete with dreams of standing on the Olympic podium some day or someone who enjoys athletics on a recreational level, these mental skills will help you find your inner champion on and off the court.