It's great to see professional athletes recognizing the mental battle that goes on between their ears. In this situation it's tennis pro John Isner. Yet, I can only imagine how he could have been helped throughout his junior, college and young professional career to change some of his failures into successes.
"As a professional athlete, you want to feel so strong and impervious to everything, but that wasn't the case for me and I let him know that," Isner told me in Houston at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships last month. "I let him know what I was feeling in the big moments. I let him know sometimes how scared I was."
"I'd find myself seizing up, not freeing up," Isner said. "And just wanting to win so badly that I didn't want to go after it myself, I was a little afraid of that. With how I'm built, it's the absolute wrong thing to do. When other players get nervous and get tight, say, be it a Nadal, a Djokovic, a Murray -- they can rely on their wheels. I can't. I'd just find myself hoping my opponent would miss. I knew what was holding me up was myself."
I discuss a quote from Tim Grover's book Relentless. He highlights how important mental training and toughness in and external to sport is.
I break down USA President Teddy Roosevelt's famous quote about daring greatly. I explain the importance of giving everything and understanding that winning is sometimes achieved even if an athlete loses. I also highlight that losing and failing is a natural process.
What is Mental Toughness? Jones and colleagues said THIS is what makes a mentally tough athlete:
1. having self-belief in one’s ability to achieve goals;
2. being able to recover from set backs and having an extra determination to succeed;
3. having a high amount of self belief that one has better abilities and more qualities than their opponents;
4. having a high amount of motivation and desire to succeed;
5. being fully-focused on the task even when there are distractions;
6. having the ability to regain psychological control following uncontrollable events;
7. having the ability to overcome emotional and physical pain;
8. being able to accept and cope with the anxiety experienced in competition;
9. thriving on pressure;
10. having the ability to not be affected by good or bad performances;
11. having the ability to remain fully focused even in the face of distraction;
12. the ability to switch the focus on your sport on and off.
Of course, this is all easy on paper. It takes training to be able to do it. That's my job!
Jones, G., & Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2002). What Is This Thing Called Mental Toughness? An Investigation of Elite Sport Performers. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology .. 14. 205-218. 10.1080/10413200290103509.
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