5 Common Mental Toughness Challenges

By John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach

Sprinter leaving starting blocks on the running track. Explosive start.

Athletes face many common challenges every day.  It’s important for young athletes to develop an awareness of the challenges and how to best beat them.  Here is a list of some common challenges:

  1. Performance in practice is better than in performances.
    Something changes between practice and competition, but it’s difficult to put your finger on it.
  2. Performance takes a hit when “others” are watching.
    When important people are watching you become aware of their presence, and lose focus. Faced with the worry about letting others down the focus is directed more toward not failing rather than a winning performance. This is similar to stage fright.
  3. Doubt limits performance before and during games.
    Confidence is gained in practice when the pressure is low, but when a competitive performance requires execution something happens. Doubt sets in and the ability to get the job done disappears.  This is called “practice self-confidence” versus “competitive self-confidence.
  4. Fear of failure creates tension and performance suffers.
    Practice is free and without worry, however during games dear and anxiety paralyzes your execution. The dear and tightness comes from wanting to win so badly. Fear of failure or embarrassment causes the need to try too hard and worry too much about outcomes.
  5. Loss of focus during critical times during a game.
    When the pressure is on too perform in critical “crunch time” situations attention gets lost. It’s the pressure to perform that causes a “lights out” mental game situation. The mind becomes congested and consequently difficult to clear the congestion and focus in the present.