A lot can be said about the success of an athlete when it comes to peak performance, not only in the way of physical preparation but also mental.

I recently came across a book called “The Art of Mental Training” by DC Gonzalez with Alice McVeigh which highlighted what it takes to teach, and help athletes develop the psychological skills required for peak performance and mental toughness, all the while pointing out the underlying strategies that lead to higher levels of performance.

In one particular chapter it talks about “Mental Warriors”.

What is a Mental Warrior?

A Mental Warrior is someone:

  • who cannot be intimidated
  • their self confidence is too deeply rooted to be shakeable
  • they arrive on the scene to dominate
  • they love to compete, competing energizes them
  • they repel negative thoughts
  • they control their internal environment
  • they know how to remain focused under even the most challenging conditions
  • they make it a point to be ready
  • they’ve learned to manage pressure
  • they never fail to keep moving forwrad
  • Mental Warriors cannot accept not trying
  • Mental Warriors are goal orientated
  • They know what they want to do and set out to achieve it
  • Their dreams and goals motivate them to excel
  • They know how to control their emotions so as to not allow them to sabotage their own performance
  • They understand the power of imagination, concentration, and consistency
  • Most of all, Mental Warriors are brave, they have heart

Which brings me to my next point.

A recent opportunity arose to handle 2 athletes as step in coach/handler for the day, both whom suffered from fairly serious injuries couple weeks out, prior to stepping on the platform on the weekend.

Athlete 1 – suffered from disc injury in the lumbar spine 9 days out from comp

Athlete 2 – suffered from lumbar nerve root impingement radiating down her right leg

Making it difficult for either to squat or deadlift leading into competition time.

Athlete 1 – despite being a in great deal of pain came with 1 goal in mind. To get an overall total to qualify for Nationals. Going for a near perfect day on 4/5 attempts. 1 squat, 3 bench and 1 deadlift. She got there in the end and walked away with the goal she had intended, which was a plus. But it wasn’t without a fight both mentally and physically.

As Coach for the day, with athletes health and safety in mind, my opinion was to call it after a 30kg warm up deadlift put the athlete in agonising pain but she would have none of it. Nothing I said was going to talk her out of pulling out. We had a 75kg opener and 30kg was physically killing her, so we pushed through. Changed opener to 70, just enough for a qualifying total, no more, no less, and we made a last minute switch from a conventional pull to sumo. Mind you this athlete hasn’t pulled sumo in forever, but at the very least, she got it! Not without pain, but probably would’ve been worst had it been a conventional pull.

Athlete 2 – went through something like 9 days off training due to injury, and 6 physio sessions within a span of 1.5 weeks to make sure she would make it onto the platform. That’s how bad she wanted to be there. She believed she would get there, she pictured being there on the platform, felt the sensations, heard the screams and cheers and just stayed focused on her goal. Though it wasn’t her best performance to date, it took balls to even get under the bar again, under heavy loads and put in the performance that she did knowing what she had been through just weeks prior.

Point being, athlete 1 & 2 got through this with an incredible amount of self belief. Confidence is a by product of strong self belief. Self belief is what got everything going. The more powerful his or her self belief, the more confidence the warrior is able to summon up when the pressure is on. And the stronger their self belief is, the better their performance will be, and these 2 athletes proved that on the day. Both walking away with gold medals in their respective weight classes and Athlete 2 with overall best female lifter of the day.

To say that these two athletes in particular put on a brave effort is an understatement and I am grateful that I got the opportunity to handle them both on the day, it’s one of those coaching moments you won’t forget. We pushed through mentally and we got the result we came for.

If you ever put two athletes together side by side, with the same capabilities and give one of the two the mental training, that athlete will almost always win through just having that mental edge.

Get believing and start practicing your mental game, this sport is as much mental as it is physical.