The Mental Toughness it Takes to Win a Medal at the Rio Olympics
The Rio Olympic games are well into the first week and it is already evident that the mental toughness is the special ingredient in the mental characteristics of an olympian. This mental toughness is necessary for athletes to win medals. This has been especially so in events like rowing and cycling where the erratic weather has influenced events.
I read a brief interview on the MIC Network with sports psychologists Brooke Macnamara and Nicole Detling who identified the 4 mental characteristics below required to be a top class Olympic athlete.
The Mental Characteristics of an Olympian
“In addition to physiology, natural talent and practice, mental preparedness plays a huge role in elite competition.
Not overthinking it
The best athletes trust that they’ve practiced enough. “An athlete can start thinking about a movement or a shot that really should be so practiced or rehearsed that it’s automatic. If you think too much it disrupts that process.
The level of confidence you have in your abilities in the moment of competition can also disrupt that automated process. Top athletes usually have rock-solid confidence.
How much a person wants to win, their motivation to perform well matters. There’s also the flip side to consider: how much a person doesn’t want to lose. Some people hate to lose more than they love to win. Either way, it’s a powerful motivator.
Olympic athletes have failed a lot more along the way. As a result, they’re more resilient, and they have a lot of perseverance and determination to get through it.”
You can train yourself to be more mentally tough, like an Olympian
Mental training is useful for any type of performance, even if you’re not trying to win an Olympic event, Detling said. For example, for someone who’s never done public speaking that can be just as stressful as going for gold.
A big part of mental training is learning how to manage failure and fear of failure, Detling said. It’s much more useful to “see failures as stepping stones, paths instead of obstacles.”
It’s also important to move on quickly from failure. “You have to be able to drop what just happened and not linger,” Macnamara said. Otherwise, you’re more likely to mess up the next race, public-speaking event or whatever it is you’re training for.
After an athlete has failed, Detling asks them, “Where’s your opportunity? What can you learn from this? What can you take forward?”
Those questions shouldn’t be any different for non-Olympians.
“Every one of us could do that,” she said.
I was interested in their 4 mental characteristics of an olympian which echo many of Clough and Strycharyzck’s MTQ48 4 C’s framework of Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence, which holds up well for mental toughness in the Rio Olympics as well as everyday life and work.
For more guidance on how you can become mentally tough contact Mental Toughness Partners.