As stated in Photo Essay: UCD vs. F91 Dudelange mental toughness is defined as having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to cope better than your opponents with the many demands and related pressures that sport places on a performer (Jones et al. 2002). In order to achieve mental toughness an athlete has to be able to learn how to cope with stressors. A great example of mentally tough athletes was seen during the 5th Galway Aquathon Festival hosted by the Galway Triathlon Club. This festival consists of three races: The Junior Race, Adult Standard Race, Adult Long Race. Each of them consisting of either 1000m swim and 5k run or 2000m swim and a 1ok run. This was not the only challenge faced by the athletes; the weather and the elevation of the waves in the ocean required a new course for the swimmers.
Junior athletes ranged from ages 8 to 15 years old. The kids were able to cope with the cold weather, rain, and the aggressive waves. Parents supported their children from the beginning of the race until the end. It was interesting seeing the different levels of mental toughness in these kids. Some were proud to be done and were happy yet, others were crying because they felt overwhelmed. Parents teach their kids to cope with these types of conditions by giving them supportive words of encouragement. Although it was a National Championship and prizes were awarded some kids still felt great even if they were not able to place. It is important to recognize the achievements of the child athlete yet, the child needs to be able to enjoy competitions and have fun instead of giving them the responsibility of winning. This builds the athlete’s self confidence because as the child progresses, they are able to learn to keep their confidence at an adequate level regardless of previous performance. Instead, if the child is taught to compete to win, the child may have doubts and fear built from previous performances.
Elizabeth Torres – first time participant of the Aquathon
The child athletes were not the only ones faced with fear. The participants of the standard and long race were also nervous to start the competition. Some participants were not able to finish the race and asked to be removed from the water. Others did not start the running portion because of the amount of energy spent while facing the power of the waves. On the other hand, the athletes that were able to finish the race showed high levels of self-confidence. Weinberg and Gould described self-confidence as the belief that you can successfully perform a desired behavior. In this case the behavior was to be able to swim and run regardless of the weather. In order to build confidence, the athlete must have had previous experiences that build the different aspects of self confidence. These aspects include: The ability to execute physical skill, the use of self talk or imagery, knowing the level of physical fitness and training status. Out of all of these aspects the most important one that was demonstrated was the ability to adapt and use the perceptual skills to be able to make the decision to keep moving forward and adapt to the weather conditions.
Another mental skill that correlates with performance is concentration.
Concentration is the ability to maintain focus on relevant environmental cues. When the environment changes rapidly, attentional focus must also change rapidly. Thinking of the past or the future raises irrelevant cues that often lead to performance errors (Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D., 2011).
A triathlete needs to develop internal and external focus required on each sport in order to have a better chance of becoming successful. During a race an athlete could find internal distractors (fatigue, thinking of previous performance, motivational issues) and external distractors (visual and auditory) that could affect performance.
Mental toughness, confidence and concentration are only a few mental skills that are correlated with the performance of an athlete. In order to further develop these skills an athlete has to be able to have the knowledge of each along with the practice of techniques that are able to enhance each.
Jones, G. (2002). What is this thing called mental toughness? An investigation of elite sport performers. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 14(3), 205-218.
Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Human Kinetics. Ch. 14 pgs. 319-342
Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Human Kinetics. Ch. 16, pgs. 363-392
Life Is a Challenge
There are so many people living on this planet, and all of them have their own views on what life means to them. There are optimists, pessimists, realists who have rather different views considering the events happening in their life. If we say that life is a challenge, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we perceive the world in a dull way – it means that we understand that life is not always a piece of cake, but in this feature there also can be seen the beauty of life.
No one can deny that there are many different moments in our life when we are sad or disappointed; often there is injustice and various events that are bitter and very unpleasant. We cannot totally avoid these aspects of our life, as it is always interrelated with the other people and everything can drastically change any moment. A lot of people find these challenges to be too hard for them and in such situations they just choose not to interfere in the course of affairs and complain about their life, as if someone sympathizes with their misery. But as for me, it is too easy of a way out. I choose to perceive these challenges in such a way that they polish my character and make me a better person.
It is not an easy way, I have to admit. I strive very hard to…