Mental resilience is as important as physical toughness in sports, and can be cultivated strategically. Read some expert tips on how to develop a winner’s mindset. 

How is it that some sports-persons play their best game when it really matters, while others choke in the spotlight? What drives some athletes to consistently push their limits despite adversity, while others crumble under pressure?

The answer is simple, in a way. It’s psychological, or mental strength. No matter how skilled an athlete is, if he/she can’t handle mental pressure, they cannot give their best when it comes to performing. In fact, mental strength inculcates discipline, and also makes a player more efficient.

SISAKET THAILAND-SEPTEMBER 16: Victor Amaro of Sisaket FC. take a penalty kick during Thai Premier League between Sisaket FC and Pattaya Utd at Sri Nakhon Lamduan Stadium on September 162015Thailand

Mental strength is a skill you can develop

Mental toughness is not something you’re born with. Instead, its a skill that can be learnt and mastered with practice. The key is to make mental conditioning a part of overall training.

Here are some techniques that can prepare you mentally to give your optimum performance, even in the times of difficulty and pressure.

#1 Simulate stressful conditions

Many players tend to perform a lot better in practice, as compared to competition. That’s because both technique and decision making get affected when we’re under stress. Tackle this more effectively by creating similar targets and stressors in practice. That way, your mind and muscles are geared up, to cope with stressors on the field.

#2 Create process goals

Goals like “I want to play the Olympics” can be very motivating.  However, they do little to guide us towards our next step. Ultimately, goals need to short term, but also focused on player’s daily achievements. For example, “I will practice my dribble for 3 hours today” or “I will get a first serve percentage of 80% by next week” are more effective goals.

#3 See competition as a challenge, not a threat

Winning or losing a match is not the end of the world. So, try and approach competitions as situations that excite and challenge you to do your best, rather than scare or threaten you.

BARCELONA - MAY, 2015: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrating a goal during a Spanish League match against RCD Espanyol at the Power8 stadium on Maig 17 2015 in Barcelona Spain

#4 Attention and concentration

The problem with attention is not how long we can maintain it, but rather, what we choose to focus on. That’s why training your mind to focus on factors within your control, is essential.

#5 Practice visualization

Visualizations are a great tool when it comes to building motivation, bouncing back from injury and helping a player relax in stressful times. So, learn certain forms of imagery that may help improve the technical aspects of your play.