Staying mentally strong

As basketball teams across the country are gearing up for conference championships and March Madness, competition is getting tough. So what sets elite athletes apart from the rest?

The presence of mental toughness is one undeniable factor. Athletes who posses growth mindset and are mentally tough possess the ability to disregard negative outcomes or adversity; they have the ability to control their emotions and silence the voice inside their head that says something is impossible.

When you possess the qualities required for growth mindset and are mentally tough, you are able to go beyond the limits in your mind in order to take yourself to higher levels.


No season is ever perfect, there are going to be ups and downs, wins and losses. How does an athlete handle themselves in the bad times? They persist. Instead of backing off in the face of adversity, the mentally tough athlete faces it head on.

When they experience a loss, mistake or pressure - do they give up? NO! A mentally tough athlete will rebound from failure and adversity in order to be better. Athletes grow and develop from the ups and downs of sport by persisting through the tough times. They are able to stay consistent and push themselves.


All mentally tough athletes feel they control their performance regardless of external forces. They possess an unshakeable faith that they can control their own performance and they remain unaffected by competition or adversity. In their minds, the identity of the opponent does not matter; they will still play their best.

An athlete who isn’t mentally tough may give control to their opponents, teammates or coaches. This ultimately affects their performance by surrendering their power and shifting their focus.

Instead of losing their focus after a bad call from the referee, a mentally tough athlete can keep their cool and focus on the next play. No matter what, they feel and act as if they can influence the competition and outcome of the situation.


When you are the fifth or sixth place team facing the undefeated first place team, are you upset or excited about the opportunity? Any mentally tough athlete would state that they are excited to face the best team because they enjoy the challenge.

Instead of wanting to play a worse opponent, someone who is mentally tough wants to play an opponent who will challenge them. The underdog who plays a challenging team does not see this opportunity as a threat; rather, the athlete perceives an opportunity to grow and develop.

An athlete’s desire for a challenge directly correlates to their perception  of an opportunity to grow and develop. The desire for a challenge directly correlates to their perceived control because they are unaffected by the opponent. They are not complacent. Instead, they want to push their limits.


Both control and the desire for challenge would not be possible without self-confidence. A strong sense of self-belief is a quality that will be found in all mentally tough athletes.

How could they challenge themselves to compete with the best if they do not believe they can succeed? Athletes who don’t believe in their abilities want to play an opponent who at a lower skill level because they do not have the confidence to take on a challenge or can’t handle losing.

By having high self-confidence and growth mindset, athletes are able to constantly improve because they challenge themselves regularly. Furthermore, self-belief allows athletes the play at their best no matter what everyone else is doing.

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