The way to the top for any athlete starts with good mental health. One of the main topics that sports psychology focuses on is how to prepare student athletes for the challenges ahead of them. It’s no wonder that top athletes, no matter what field of sport they are in, often display a steely will and incredible mental toughness.
Marc Stocco is a student athlete currently playing baseball at the University of the Fraser Valley. Originally from Surrey, British Columbia, Marc has been playing baseball for most of his life. He is a passionate player and a solid teammate who shows dedication to the sport on and off the field. As a pitcher, he is continuously looking for ways to improve his game and get an edge on opposing batters.
Mental Toughness in Sports Psychology
Mental toughness is all about being aware of your goal and having the determination to put in the hard work to get to your goal. “At the same time,” Marc Stocco explains, “you have to be resilient enough to handle the hurdles that come your way. It’s like a brain muscle that you work on and exercise to make it stronger and tougher.”
You can think of mental toughness as that inner strength that keeps you going, even after your body is ready to give up. In many cases, this is what separates top performers from the rest of the pack.
The Challenges of Mental Toughness
One of the biggest challenges to mental toughness, according to Marc Stocco, is the fear of failure. This is such a common problem among student athletes that sports psychology has devoted a lot of time and resources to studying this phenomenon and what causes it.
For the most part, athletes who fall short of reaching their goals have some common characteristics or flaws. These flaws can be summed up as low confidence, irritability, overwhelming negative emotions, and feeling isolated. Since not everyone is born with these negative traits, they’re often the product of unfavourable conditions surrounding the athlete. It could be high expectations on the part of the parents or constant berating and criticism from the coaches or colleagues.
Marc Stocco on the Road to Mental Toughness
As a passionate baseball player, Marc Stocco believes that the road to mental toughness begins with getting rid of the negative traits that hold the athlete back. These traits are mental constructs that need to be combated with the following positive reinforcements and mental exercises.
- Positive Thinking: Nothing saps the athlete’s energy and motivation like negative emotions. To fight them, try to stay positive. Think of your strengths rather than your weaknesses. It’s okay to make mistakes, but when you analyze those mistakes, don’t come down hard on yourself. Accept that you’ve made a mistake, learn from it, and move on. You’re bigger than the mistakes you make.
- Mindful Meditation: One of the best ways to build your mental toughness is to practice mindful meditation regularly. It helps reduce your stress, get rid of negative thoughts, and promote mental health. Meditation is not about chanting a mantra or adopting a different lifestyle. It’s about calming your mind and achieving inner peace.
- Get to the Edge: The edge here is your physical and mental limitations. Leave your comfort zone and push yourself to the limit from time to time. Many coaches like to take their athletes to that point a few times every month. It builds stamina, cultivates mental toughness, and increases their confidence.
- Visualize Success: Before the game, try to visualize yourself scoring and performing well. This prepares you mentally and physically to perform your best and keeps negative emotions and self-doubts at bay.