Bob’s Blog – The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes

In everything that can happen to you in life there is always a silver lining. You just have to be patient and remember to look for it. These past few weeks have given me the opportunity to do a lot of reading and to take advantage of the enormous amount of free materials available online. When I think about what is available to me all at once it can sometimes be overwhelming! I do not want to miss anything, and I cannot absorb everything all at once! I have been following a group called Positive Sports Alliance and this has been a source of useful information ranging on topics from fitness training techniques and self-imagining to mental toughness and mental well-being for athletes. With the slow-down in professional and amateur sports across our country and around the world, there are wonderful collaborative initiatives happening between doctors, trainers, coaches and athletic directors from professional, college and high school ranks – they are all sharing information on their areas of expertise.

An article entitled “The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes” written by Dr. Jack Lesyk has made an impression on me that I would like to share some of with you in this week’s blog. Dr. Lesyk has spent more than 30 years working at the Ohio Center for Sports Psychology providing services to elite and developing athletes. The philosophy of Dr. Lysyk and the Center reads as follows;

“Remember that you engage in sport because it enhances your life. You owe it to yourself and to those who care about you to do your best. You cannot do more. Win or lose, you are still the same person and life goes on. It is your chosen commitment and struggles toward excellence that makes you a better person, not your win-loss record. Enjoy yourself, learn, and savor the day!”

The article outlines some of the mental skills that very successful professional and big-time college athletes have in common. However Dr. Lesyk is quick to point out that the skills he writes about in his article are equally as important to any person working to find excellence in anything task they take on. “We believe that our work is worthwhile because the same mental skills that athletes use in achieving success in sports can be used to achieve success in other areas of their lives.” As we all continue to get comfortable with social distancing, changes to our daily schedule and looking for paths to take that get us back on schedule to continue improving who we are and what we want to be doing there are some points Dr. Lesyk makes that made me take notice.

Before describing the nine mental skills Dr. Lesyk has outlined in the article I want to share first his performance pyramid. Although each of the nine skills is important, its primary importance will occur during one of these three phases: long-term development, immediate preparation for performance, and during performance itself. For this writing I am only going to focus on the first phase which is long-term development. The mental skills associated with this initial phase are attitude, motivation, goals and commitment, and people skills. “These mental skills constitute a broad base for attaining long-term goals, learning, and sustaining daily practices. They are needed on a day-by-day basis for long periods of time, often months and years.” I thought as I was reading this that this information dovetailed nicely with the goal-setting thoughts we shared last week.

Attitude: Successful athletes, students, teacher, coaches, parents must realize that positive attitude is a choice. Each day you have the choice to set your attitude and you need to make it predominately positive. You need to view your circumstance as an opportunity to overcome, to learn from and make the most out of whatever comes your way. It’s important to pursue excellence, not perfection, and realize that you and everyone else you know are not perfect. Respect others in everything you do.

Motivation: You will find success no matter what if you can fully realize that many of the benefits that come from hard work, from participation, and from sacrifice stay with you regardless of the outcome. The benefits stay and the outcome does not. You motivation to improve at anything will enable you to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times, even when these rewards and benefits are not immediately forthcoming.

Goals and Commitment: We wrote about this last week but reminders are always good to have; set long-term and short-term goals that are realistic, measurable, and time-oriented. Be aware of where you are currently and develop specific, detailed plans for attaining those goals. Stay committed to your goals by staying on a schedule that you’ve developed, written down, and posted somewhere close by to refer to.

People Skills: A key component for any successful person is realizing you are part of a larger system that includes your family, friends, teammates, coaches and others. When appropriate, communicate your thoughts, goals and feelings to a trusted friend or teammate. Nothing holds you more accountable than sharing your goals with someone you respect and want the same back.

These are just four of the nine mental skills of successful athletes/people. If you want to continue on and learn more google search Dr. Jack J. Lesyk and his “The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes” article. His initial four can serve as the good foundation for any individual looking for that extra focus in their life and what better day to start on this than today! I hope you keep smiling, get outside when you can and get some exercise, and keep working those online classes!

Go Big Green!