The Three Components of Performance – Mental Strength
The Three Components of Performance are:
There is no doubt that to be a successful athlete in any sport or discipline, Fitness and Technical Ability are essential. Having a talent and ability that can be trained and honed is how most athletes will begin their journey. Unfortunately, though, that can only take you so far. It is Mental Strength that turns a good athlete into an exceptional one.
Building Mental Strength takes practise and time, but the rewards are far higher. To be able to keep a clear and concentrated mind through times of severe pressure is what allows your natural talent and fitness to come to the fore. You need to allow your preparation and technical prowess to take centre stage, rather than let your mind becoming a distraction.
A fantastic example of this would be 100 Metre World Record holder, Usain Bolt. Breaking the 10 second barrier was seen at one stage as an impossible task, but many sprinters took the challenge and the barrier became an obstacle of the past. Usain Bolt is an incredibly confident athlete. His awareness of his talent and the ability to disregard the pressure of expectation are what led him to a World Record 9.58 seconds, having beaten himself by 0.11 seconds to reach it. The triumph was natural rather than forced and came from a man who was mentally as talented as his body was.
Mentally you must have concentration, will, emotional balance and confidence in your abilities. Psychological factors are what affect physical performance, distracting and preventing perfect implementation. You must make the transition from a training exercise to a high pressure situation and it is up to your body to deliver the results it has a thousand times before, whilst your mind remains calm and focussed so as not to distract.
Tiger Woods is another example of this. In his prime he was an unbeatable golfer but when his personal life spilt over into his sporting life his performance dropped. Unable to separate his mind from his body, Tiger was forced to think about every shot he played, rather than tap into unconscious thought that already knew the answer.
Above all you need internal motivation to overcome external pressure. Following your own inner leadership is far more effective than bowing to the expectations of fans or family. Internal motivation is what focusses your mind to overcome pain. Tour de France riders will suffer incredible damage to their bodies in their quest for glory, but succeed by staying in the present, day by day.
The most recent example of a failure of mental strength has to be Brazil’s capitulation to Germany at this year’s World Cup. Expectation of a nation, stress, fear were all freely expressed by a team who were unable to control their emotion and focus on their training. Had they been able to enter the pitch with a clear mind, delivered the consistency of their training and followed an internal motivation, the result may well have been different. Instead there was humiliation.
Germany’s victory in the Final at the iconic Maracana, filled with opposing Argentine fans and thousands of miles from home, was a prime example of how to use Mental Strength. Despite having an average age of 26, the team delivered victory for a nation whose minds were set before the tournament even began, with a confidence reflected by an entire country.