The mental toughness of an athlete/person is a great indicator of their ability to cope with a sports injury. Mental toughness is nothing more than what you focus on. Therefore, those that cope the best generally are more positive and better able to control their self-talk/thoughts. In addition, they usually have high levels of consistent confidence and have a belief that what they do today impacts their future.
Mentally, we can help our athletes cope better by instilling in them confidence, positive/productive self- talk, motivation and other mental skills.
Having a “This is Good” mentality is crucial. When we train our brains to find the good regardless of how bad a situation is, we develop mental strength. Start by having the injured athlete list as many positives that can come out of the injury as possible. This may be difficult at first but the more they start of focus on what they can learn from the injury, what they can work on during the injury, etc. the better they will be in the long run.
In addition to focusing on the “good”, encourage athletes to focus on what they can do now versus what they used to do. Keep their focus on the present instead of the past.
Having positive or productive self-talk/thoughts increases confidence and helps keep a strong mindset. Some athletes have even found that talking to the injury in a productive light increases healing.
Visualization is another important skill that builds confidence and can be used in recovery. Having the athlete practice their skills mentally keeps them engaged in addition to keeping them as sharp as possible without physical practice. Having them create a picture in their head of how they want to be once they recover gives them a visual goal to strive for. As I mentioned with self-talk, many believe that visualizing the injured area healing can speed up the process as well.
Injuries are setbacks but each setback gives an athlete the opportunity to turn it into something good/productive. An athlete’s mindset will greatly determine their mental state during the injury, how fast they heal and how strong (mentally and physically) they will be once the injury has resolved.
For more tips and strategies on confidence, check out “The Confident Athlete: 4 Easy Steps to Build and Maintain Confidence” and follow us on twitter @tamimatheny. The book is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.