Mental Toughness: Why Training the Mind is more Important than the Body

All good performance coaches know that beyond the grit and grind of the weight room, or the pursuit of perfect technique, or even the strict demands of a well balanced diet lies the key to personal athletic achievement: The mind.

In his book The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford he tells us “It’s only in the present moment that you can cultivate conscious flow in your life, achieve optimal levels of performance, and experience that exalted place called ‘the Zone’.”  Being present as an athlete requires 100% attention. Doing this we allow all of our preparation to flow through us, and we perform at our maximum potential.

In my opinion the mind is the most underused and underrated aspect of athletic training, but by far the most important.  Without developing this aspect of our performance we can never fully capitalize on all the physical development we’ve gained through training.  We’ve all heard the same mantra or a variation of it… the game is 40% Physical and 60% mental. Me personally, I’d go with 30/70 but the ratio is less important than understanding what this means.  As a former competitive athlete this concept eluded me for much of my career. One thing that was clear to me was that the most talented athletes didn’t always succeed, but the best athletes always performed.

I say perform because when it all boils down to it that’s all that really matters, right?  As an athlete, every practice, every training session, every barbell we lift is done with the idea that when the lights turn on we perform. We shine, we ball, we ‘turn up’, we get in our zone.  But as those lights get brighter, the intensity builds and the stakes get higher. I can assure you that mental toughness is key and one aspect always rises above the rest: Presence- the ability to block out all the noise and make plays.

An athlete with a strong presence has the ability to harness all of their mental energy on what is required at that moment.  They are completely focused and aware of the now; making a catch, throwing a pitch, sinking a free throw, saving a goal. They are the quiet within the storm.  This is what separates them from their opponent who lacks presence. Their opponent is nervous, doubtful, distracted, afraid, thinking of the what if’s, and hope nots. One is immersed in the moment focused only on the task at hand, while the other is drowning in the vast sea of their mind.

Learning presence as an athlete is a simple concept but can be a difficult task.  Athletes have countless distractions that can throw them off their game. Especially amateur athletes who are forced to juggle many different elements at once.  But at the Boost Performance Center in Corona CA we believe that like all other aspects of performance this skill can be trained. During practice, training sessions, and film study, eliminate distractions and become completely involved in all that is at that moment.  Give the mental effort and as your presence grows so will your performance. We all have our Zone, we just need to take the time to find it.

Ray Bass
Level 1 & 2 Coach Bommarito Performance