Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance.
“High Performance Sport is Not 90% Mental“
By Gareth J. Mole (PSY0001372747)
Sometime ago, someone coined the phrase “golf is 90% mental” and it’s been repeated countless times since – both out loud and via our our internal dialogue. Despite not having any scientific origins, this mantra has not only lasted the test of time but has expanded well beyond golf to now be used to infer the importance of the mental side across all high performance sports.
It might seem odd for a performance psychologist such as myself to challenge this notion given it implies my area of expertise should be the most relevant at the pointy end of sport, but I do so without qualms. This is mainly due to the fact that even if it were true, genuine (qualified) psychological coaching is still the exception rather than the rule.
But back to that myth. Sport, like most motor skill performance areas, is made up of different “ingredients” (see Chris’ previous edition of the MTD for an excellent reminder of this). Although there is some small variance between sports, the five pillars (types of ingredients) roughly start off as being of equal importance. In other words, as an absolute beginner athlete with no strengths or weaknesses yet your training would want to be roughly 20% directed to the development of the following:
- Physical Capabilities
- Technical Consistency
- Tactical Wisdom
- Lifestyle Choices
- Mental Toughness
Sure, there is an argument that physically brutal sports like rugby league might have slightly more emphasis towards the physical side compared with other less physically demanding pursuits like table sports (snooker, pool etc), but given all five of these areas are essential this variation is smaller than you’d imagine.
So, if these beginner athletes received equal coaching across these five domains then, when they eventually became elite, the importance of each would remain the same. Consequently, a more accurate mantra would be that “golf is 20% mental”. But as beginner athletes generally get no proper Mental Toughness Training, as time passes its neglect means it starts to play a greater role in the determination of the winners. A great analogy to help make this point is returning to Chris’ ingredients: the longer you go excluding vegetables from recipes, the greater their benefits when you add them back in.
If you’re reading or listening to this and are involved in or aiming to be involved in the more competitive environments of your sport and do little or no Mental Toughness Training (like have no vegetables in your diet) then get in touch by emailing us at email@example.com. One of the biggest advantages of our approach to Mental Toughness Training at Condor Performance is we work right across the competitive spectrum (in fact, we are renowned for our passion for grassroots sports), right across the English-speaking world (via Skype and FaceTime at a time that suits your time zone not ours) and right across the growing number of sports that have a high performance elements.
Let us nourish you.