Sports Round-Up: Mental Toughness
BY HALEY HANSON | EDITORIAL INTERN
An athlete’s mentality, confidence, and skills are what separate the elite players from the average ones. Mental preparedness and toughness are the key aspect to be successful in today’s sports. How you approach the game can be far more important than the skills you bring. As a multiple sport athlete in high school, I have learned the importance of developing a healthy self-image, self-esteem, and self-confidence through the 12 years I have been playing sports. I have played select soccer and golf, and I continue to play basketball and softball. I have also learned the only thing holding me back or stopping me is ME. Coaches have been addressing the importance of having good headspace more recently and it has made me more aware of how teams can play together when they have confidence in their abilities and their teammates. I believe that it is partially because of my team’s mental toughness that led us to winning the 3A State Softball Championship in 2017. We held each other accountable for mistakes and pushed ourselves to get better every day. It can be hard for any athlete to focus when coaches are screaming and people are pushing and I feel like I’m are going to break, I know if my teams weren’t strong mentally we would not have made it as far as we did. To be mentally strong means that the person has enough strength to get over an obstacle and rise above it. Many athletes from all levels experience this at some point in their lives.
"I, too, have been put to the test. I have played in over 100 degrees with turf burning my feet in the outfield, ran lines at basketball until my coach says “stop”, ran foul poles, made an error, missed a play, played up to 6 games in a day and worked through injuries."
A great example of a mentally tough athlete is Venus Williams, a professional women’s tennis player, number eight in WTA standings, and one of the best women’s tennis players in the world. In Steve Tignor’s article on Tennis, "There’s Mental Toughness, And Then There’s What Venus Is Doing At SW19," Williams talks about how she had to overcome the nerves, pressure, and competitive atmosphere to make it far at the Wimbledon tournament. Williams had an early lead in the second set of the semifinal game that she let slip. She was two points away from having to play a third set. Williams channeled her game and thought about how she played by playing simple, aggressive, and straightforward. She believed in herself and had one of her best serves to win the match. As she says, “I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.” This is one thing I think sports really provides young athletes - the ability to learn how strong I can become not only physically but mentally and overcoming some of the toughest situations I have been put in on and off the field. Venus Williams is a strong role model to me and other women athletes like myself. She puts in hours of work and when things don’t go her way, she makes no excuses and keeps grinding. It reminds me of the time I shot a half-court shot thinking there was 5 seconds on the clock, when in reality there was 20 seconds left. The competitive nature in sports helps women throughout their life and teaches them to rise above and push for toward their goals like Venus Williams.
In the article by Sally Tamarkin on the Greatist website, "It’s All in Their Heads: The Mental Edge of Athletes Who Win," sports psychologists address the importance of the mental game. They have determined that “high levels of mental toughness are associated with athletic prowess and success of an athlete.” These psychologists also talk about the importance for training your mind. “Visualization is a piece of the training that is incredibly important. You’re imagining the start, the route, the competition, those points that your body is saying stop. You’re mentally training yourself to push through those barriers.” In addition, the article mentions a man named Andy Scott. Scott does endurance mountain bike racing and got into a collision during the race. He still managed to finish the 100-mile race in 8 hours and 24 minutes. Scott shows how important it is to be ready for anything to happen and because of his visualization before the race he didn’t get off track and still finished with an astonishing time.
Like Scott, I also visualize before games. I lie down on the ground and just relax and think about my body, the beating of my heart, and what I can do to help win the game. I, too, have been put to the test. I have played in over 100 degrees with turf burning my feet in the outfield, ran lines at basketball until my coach says “stop”, ran foul poles, made an error, missed a play, played up to 6 games in a day and worked through injuries. I have played in Little League District Title games, Little League State Tournaments, represented my country abroad in Spain, played in High School playoffs, won the state title, and have played in front of numerous college coaches. I have learned through my experience how to rise up to the challenge. I believe I have a toughness about me that helps me through the nerves, high expectations, and the courage to help my team win. I know when I can perform under the pressure on the big stage, it will help me in many aspects of my life: job interviews, projects, college, and others. I know if I keep training my body and mind to do the work I can accomplish my dreams of playing college softball and anything else I want to do in my life.
Each month, our editorial interns research articles written by or about women’s sports. Our Sports Round Ups is a gathering place of women sports news and voices. Our mission is to spread awareness of women’s voices in the sporting field, to help tell the stories of our community, and to inspire her own understanding and voice.