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The Power of Mind in Sports

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"Whether you think you can or you think you can't - you are right." Henry Ford

This is Henry Ford’s famous quotation about this powerful tool which we use every day, the mind. People are affected by their thoughts which can be destructive or empowering; these thoughts reflect their actions which will appear to be negative or positive, thus presenting themselves in certain ways that directly influence performance. Individuals are the dictators of their thoughts and behaviors: we are able to control what we think, how we think and when we think, so that we can achieve the expected outcome of our performance.

The brain and the mind are interconnected in the human body as our inner tools, thus they believe we are incapable of performing a certain activity they will slow our bodies down, making us less powerful and less efficient. However, there are several ways of dominating our thoughts, so that our brain and our mind will believe that we are able to engage with certain tasks by challenging ourselves with difficult physical exercises combined with constant repetitions, convincing ourselves that our muscles can work hard, and the most important thing to believe is not only that we can but in the face of competition, failure is not an option.

"Endurance sports are about 70% mental and 30% physical."

Athletes experience the mind intensely while playing their sport, facing conflicts with themselves, and resulting in destruction or elevation of their performance. Therefore, sports psychologists strongly emphasize the awareness of negative and positive thoughts, the analysis of those thoughts, and the understanding of them as a whole. Athletes need to train their minds just as they train their bodies but with a higher concentration; in order to achieve the state of mindfulness human beings must have patience, desire, a purpose which will activate our motivation, and practice to modify habits and thought patterns.

There are different strategies that can be used to train athletes’ mental tools to use their thoughts to get power and control out of their performance, such as, setting goals, the use of imagery and visualization, and training to be aware of own thoughts by bringing them to the front of the brain. By setting goals, athletes will gain the motivation and determination to achieve them, will overcome barriers as lack of belief in themselves and fears, and their anxiety will diminish.

The exercise of imagery and visualization is done when the athlete uses his/her mental skills to watch a desired situation, such as correct techniques, positive emotions, or an expected outcome, where all the senses are involved as the sound of the footwork, the physical sensation, or the self-confidence taking place. Sports psychologists state that this is one of the most effective ways of dominating the mind. Lastly, training is putting all these concepts in practice repetitively, so this art of mental toughness will become natural and unconscious.

Thoughts most of the times are extremely challenging, filling up the human’s mind, taking over their attention, and being responsible for poor performances. Thus, the ability to be aware of them, understand them, and turn negatives into positives are the greatest skills an athlete could develop, in order to become mentally tough. In addition, when athletes put these skills in practice and start believing in themselves, not only a differential performance is witnessed but also a healthy mental state is experienced.