Article Written By: Bruce Capers

Head Coach, Gordon State College

Tips for Athletes and Parents to Develop Mental Toughness

There are several strengthening techniques athletes and parents can focus on to improve their mental toughness. Mental Toughness Training is practiced at college id camps and national showcase camps like EXACT. Basketball coaches and players looked forward to playing with and against ballers who are mentally tough. They represent a challenge to one another in their quest to be the best. Mental toughness is immediately recognized among athletes and coaches without speaking to each other. There are certain qualities they all have and use effectively to enhance their success on and off the court.

Create Athletic and Academic Goals

Athletes and parents should set high realistic yet obtainable goals that are consistently measurable. Athletes must be committed to meeting the challenges the process will present and be confident in their abilities to succeed.  Students should stay focused on intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards. Create dates and deadlines to show improvements or meet mini goals. Establish a training plan to meet goals that include but are not limited to consistently improving yourself physically to receive the highest outcome or results in the training offer.

Training should create and include opportunities for athletes to

1. Be Leaders

2. Be self-directed

3. Take action

4. Practice with high-intensity

5. Incorporate repetition

6. Take responsibility for actions

7. Solve problems

8. Overcome adversity

9. Remove obstacles

10. Eliminate excuses

11. Visualization skills

12. Critical thinking skills

A Young Athlete Stressed About The Game

Characteristics of Mental Toughness

On and off the court student-athletes who exemplify mental toughness should develop character traits such as:

  • Courage
  • Resilience
  • Determination
  • Strong work ethic
  • Expressing emotions
  • Admitting to mistakes
  • Asking for help
  • Having the ability to adjust and be flexible 

Athletes with the above qualities are the athletes who rise to the occasion in the biggest moments of competition. They are highly desired recruits that many college coaches seek out at college id camps and national showcase events. They run to the pressure with the intent of meeting all challenges. These skills allow athletes to perform at their highest level under pressure.

Mental Toughness Playbook With Key Insights From College Coaches By EXACT Sports

Challenges As An Athlete

Although athletes should expect and meet challenges. They should also challenge themselves. During the development and improvement process of learned mental toughness, athletes will experience highs and lows. It is important for athletes to maintain a sense of self-control by not judging themselves too harshly and understanding growth happens one day at a time.

Staying Positive

It is important for the athlete and parents to remain positive. Minimize the stressors and keep your eyes on the end goal. Data from the American College of Sports Medicine indicates that 35% of elite athletes struggle with eating disorders, burnout, depression, or anxiety. Parents and athletes should always be aware of the impact of injury, overtraining, social media scrutiny, and unnecessary pressure. When developing mental toughness, it is important for everyone to pay attention to indicators that may affect student athletes’ mental health.

Overcoming Failure As An Athlete

Enjoy your journey of developing mental toughness. The hard work will build character and should be fun for all involved watching the growth right before their eyes. These acquired skills will have a life-changing impact on student-athletes long after their playing days are over. It will transfer into their professional careers and make them winners for life.

Bruce Capers Head Men's Basketball Coach at Gordon State College