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  • Kate Allgood

Athletes Mental Toughness: Holding two Realities

In this post I want to talk about something the top athletes in the world are able to do, that helps them perform in high pressure situations. From the outside looking in, we only see the outcome, and don't see the systems, processes or mental aspects that an athlete has that has helped them accomplish the outcome. It can make it seem like they have something special inside of them, or are different and don't stress, feel the pressure or have self doubt. This is furthest from the truth. Elite athletes, still have self doubt, or negative self talk. So if they still struggle with the internal aspects like everyone else, what makes them be able to deal with it and not let it impact their performance?

The key is their ability to hold two simultaneous opposite aspects of themselves, and then make a choice which side to focus on. The know they have the part of them that will make them feel inadequate, question themselves, or in a moment of competition make them feel bad, and drag them around the block. At the same time, they know that that part is not who they are. They can also see their strength, the skills they have, and be able to detach from the negative voice, and have conversations with themselves that will help them focus on what they can do, what they can control, and what skills or preparation they can lean on to help them in that moment.

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This is a skill, not one that is easy, but to not become the negative voice in your head, and to be able to create enough space to see who you are beyond the doubt, and choose to focus on that, rather than the doubt, is essential. It is also trainable. Too often athletes fight the negative voice, get frustrated it is there, and try to get rid of it. Part of self acceptance and self love, is embracing all aspects of yourself. That includes the part of you that wants to make you feel bad or inadequate. You acknowledge that part, and then choose to focus on the parts that you know will help you perform to the level you can. This is what makes the difference to those that can have the doubt and not let it impact their performance in a negative way. Sport psychology

How to Help Create the Space and Choose

Here are a few ways to help detach from the part of you that wants to pull you down:

  1. Name the voice in your head, that is your negative self talk and self doubt. Sometimes if we give a name to that part of ourselves, it helps create separation from it. To see it from a third person perspective and talk about it as a separate part. For example "Marie, is really frustrated right now, she is trying to pull me down, and make me feel I can't handle this or trying to predict what will occur."

  2. Create a plan. One thing to do is create a plan for when you get distracted by your own negative thoughts. Figure out before the competition how you want to handle it, what steps will you take. Then practice those steps in less pressurized situations. Your negative thoughts will be there beyond the pressure moments, and if you can't separate yourself from them then, you won't stand much of a chance during a high stakes moment.

  3. Figure out who you are, what your strengths are. If you are not clear on who you are, and what strengths you have, it will be difficult to see them when your negative voice is trying to drag you around the block. Get clear, on what you bring to the table.


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Kate Allgood Masters Sport Psychology (with distinction) Masters General Psychology (with distinction) Sports Hypnosis Certification Mindfulness Certification

TAIS Assessment Certified


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