Mental powers vs Skills

Winners in life and sports are not always determined by their skills alone.

At all levels of competition, those who are most successful have one characteristic in common: mental toughness. Great performance is as much about mental poise and focus as it is about physical fitness and skills.

Mental toughness is difficult to define. Here is a definition that encompasses the essence of it (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002).

Mental strength on the chessboard

Stay tough in all your battles. Chess, art work by Katerina Miroshkina

Mental toughness is having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to:

— Generally cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, and lifestyle) that sport places on a performer.

— Specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.

The Iron Man

Cal Ripken, the “Iron Man”, played 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. During his career, he played 2,632 consecutive games, setting the longest consecutive games played streak in major league baseball history.

In 2004, Cal Ripken identified 8 characteristics of perseverance, a term used synonymously with mental toughness, that he felt contributed to his consecutive game streak. The following are the characteristics he identified (Creasy, An Analysis of the Components of Mental Toughness in Sport, 2005):

1. Take the right approach: always be ready to play.
2. Have a strong will to succeed: don’t let setbacks stop you from achieving your goal.
3. Have passion for what you do: love what you do.
4. Be competitive: it’s not just about beating your opponent. You have to internalize
competitiveness and take pride in what you do.
5. Be consistent: recognize and adjust to change so that you are always able to make a
contribution to your team.
6. Have conviction: you have to be a little bit stubborn.
7. Strength: You have to be in good physical and mental condition. You must be
psychologically prepared.
8. Personal management: don’t duck potential problems; take on the problems directly
to prevent small problems from building into bigger problems.

These attributes or characteristics provide some specific insight into how athletes can achieve mental toughness.

Tennis stars Nadal and Djokovic

Djoker and Rafa: the great rivalry of tennis. Who is mentally tougher?

Locking horns again

Let’s take a look what things look like in the tennis arena. Djokovic and Nadal are meeting again at Rolex Masters in Monte Carlo. In the last seven matches Djokovic got upper hand. Sunday it is going to be as mental as physical fitness and demonstrating skills. When you reach a certain skills level in the game, fighting at the top of the tier, the mental component might be 90% of the game.

Looks like Djokovic is sticking out his jaw, looking for a fight. Let’s see what Rafa has to say to that. A great tennis rivalry indeed. Now you may want to read Peter Bodo’s blog post about the Sunday match. Our studying attributes found in the more successful athletes helps us actually get closer to the definition of mental toughness across the board, in chess, sports, business…

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