It’s a mental training myth that people are born with mental toughness. However, mental toughness is a skill set that takes practice and can be tested and strengthened over time

What Is Mental Toughness?

Mental toughness is when you’re able to remain determined, focused, confident and in control under pressure.  The further you progress in sports (example – youth vs. college level), the more important it becomes.

Big games and tough practices are the situations that will test mental skills the most, but if an athlete only waits until high stakes moments to use mental skills, they won’t hold up. Mental skills need to be practiced in all situations.

What Is Mental Training?

Similar to mental toughness, mental training skills are not something people are born with. It is a specific skill set needed for consistent performance under pressure.

It is important to note that mental training is not therapy for athletes – that is a separate sector of sports psychology. Mental training is skill development for competitive athletes who are trying to do better under pressure.

One of the first myths in mental training is – “Mental training is for athletes with problems.” Some people assume mental training is only for athletes who are troubled, unreliable, and underperformers. In fact, mental training is for athletes who have a desire to get better. It will only help the people who really want help.

How To Develop Mental Toughness

Fact: Mental Toughness is a skill set that can be learned.

Mental toughness is a skill set that is learned and developed over time. It can seem that some athletes are born with it because it can start developing at a young age. This just means that the athlete was exposed to this skill set at a young age, and was surrounded by people who helped them learn it.

Every player has a different starting point and from there learning how to prepare, build resilience and how to effectively react to adversity can all be taught. Resilience can only be learned if there is adversity (for more about adversity, check out #2 on my Benefits of Stress blog) The first time something goes wrong on the field, an athlete won’t perform well but they can learn how to handle it with more experience.

5 Basics For Mental Skills Training

  1. Motivated to work hard on constant improvement – need to be highly motivated to work hard on constant improvement; this separates the good from the great athletes
  2. Calm under pressure – learn how to stay equally calm for practices and championship games
  3. Build sustainable confidence – learn how to remain confident even when things get tough
  4. Switch focus on and refocuses quickly – learn how to turn things on and off when needed
  5. Play carefree – be able to step out onto the field and play


If you are interested in strengthening your mental toughness skills, reach out to Erika Westhoff for personalized advice.