Grace Under Pressure: Useful Mental Tips from Olympic Athletes

sports psychologistApproximately 83% of coaches rank “mental toughness” as the most important psychological characteristic for an athlete to have, but getting to a point where you’re mentally tough can be difficult, especially without the help of a sports psychologist. But grace under pressure can certainly be achieved, according to some of the greatest athletes in the world.

 
Whether you’re a student athlete or training for the big leagues, here are some pieces of mental advice from a few Olympic athletes that could get you started on the path to excellent grace under pressure.

 
Allyson Felix
Felix is a track-and-field superstar, and she says the most effective mental tool for her is tuning out all other distractions.

 
” I don’t hear any noise around me. I’m completely just dialed in to what I have to do,” she said in an interview withSports Illustrated.

 
Michael Phelps
The 2016 Olympics marked Phelps’ fifth time competing in the worldwide event. But in 2012, his coach Bob Bowman spoke to the Washington Post about his mental tricks to stay focused under the pressure of a swimming event.

 
“He will see exactly the perfect race … and then he will go through scenarios: What if things don’t go well?” Bowman said.

 
Unlike Felix, Phelps spends time beforehand mentally preparing for potential stressors. This takes a lot of psychology and mental toughness training, especially because some of the scenarios may be particularly stressful to imagine.

 
Kayla Harrison
Harrison became the first American to win gold in judo during the 2012 Olympics. Instead of visualizing everything that could go wrong like Phelps does, Harrison told the Washington Post that she likes to picture only the positive outcomes to calm herself.

 
“I picture myself bombing the girl in the final and standing on top of the podium … and feeling the gold medal go around my neck,” she said. “I visualize all of that every night.”

 
Harrison’s mental skills involve using positive thoughts to release calming feelings. Performing these exercise every night has helped Harrison learn how to stay calm in times of extreme pressure like those when she’s competing.

 
There are multiple types of mental toughness training you can run through with a sports psychologist, but perhaps you can take inspiration from these medal-winning Olympic athletes to start forming your own mental training routine.

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