When you think of the world’s best athletes, physical prowess may be the first thing that comes to mind. But while physical strength is important, it’s only part of the equation. The best competitors have another trait in common: mental toughness. Mental toughness is the ability to stay focused and perform at the highest level, no matter the circumstances. Everyone has a certain level of innate mental toughness, but like any other skill it can be cultivated with effort. We polled our coaches to find out what qualities all mentally tough athletes possess.  


Mentally tough athletes practice the way they play. These competitors treat every practice like a championship game. During practice, they push to the edge of their comfort zone, taking risks and listening to critiques from coaches. For mentally tough athletes, it’s not about going through the motions; every time they step on the court or field they see an opportunity to improve. 


Psychologically strong athletes are unfazed by adversity. You see what athletes are made of when things don’t go their way. The toughest are in control of their emotions and do not have noticeable reactions when they make mistakes. Instead, these players stay in the moment, remain composed, and focus on what they can control.


These athletes have a positive attitude. Mentally tough athletes believe they have what it takes to succeed. They are confident in their preparation and have a strong sense of identity as a player. The toughest are often the ones picking their teammates up and giving extra encouragement. 


They are focused. Mentally tough athletes block out off-the-field distractions and perform their best under any circumstances.


Mentally tough athletes are successful in life. The lessons learned in the sports arena carry into other areas of life. The characteristics of mentally tough athletes—resiliency, focus, motivation—are the same characteristics that help them succeed in school and in their career.