The reality is that most athletes play well when they are happy, positive, and relaxed — but how they respond to adversity is the difference between good and great.  The degree of mental toughness (or lack thereof) will ultimately determine whether an athlete is truly special, or simply a person with great athletic potential.

According to sport psychology research findings, athletes who are resilient, or able to bounce back quickly from adversity, often reach their full athletic potential far more quickly than athletes who constantly struggle with stress and failure.  Since losing is an inevitable part of life, it’s important to learn positive and effective means to cope with losing so that you can quickly “bounce back” and learn from the experience.

Interestingly, becoming a resilient (or mentally tough) athlete is something every athlete can learn, as you don’t need to have special DNA genetics in order to improve your mental toughness.  In other words, it’s your choice as to what to do the next time you drop a ball, strike out, or miss an open shot.  Do you view these types of negative events as threats to your athletic development, or challenges to make yourself better the next time the situation happens

There’s an old quote from the late Vince Lombardi that I use in my practice:

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up that counts.”

Unfortunately, feeling sorry for yourself, throwing tantrums, or taking your aggression out on others (like a referee) won’t help – but learning from those experiences will.  It is for this reason that every athlete needs to learn what I call a “bounce back” or “shake if off” technique that will help in those moments of failure and frustration.

The technique is simply something you do in the heat of a game that allows you to quickly turn things around in your mind.  Whatever you choose to develop as a your technique is up to you, but it should be relatively short, non-attention getting, and most importantly connected in your mind to let the last bad play go, so you get back in the game.

In simpler terms, by thinking about how you will do when future failure occurs you will actually be preparing yourself to respond in a constructive way when you eventually come up short.  This does not mean that you should think constantly about future failure, but it does mean that you should be ready for bad days and learn how too quickly “bounce back” or “shake it off” if you really want to one day become a champion.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself when things don’t go your way and instead throw down a challenge to learn from your mistakes- if you do I have no doubt you will one day reach your full athletic potential!

Remember this; “Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” Laird Hamilton Instead, make each lesson count.