Mental Toughness: The Winning SECRET of Elite Athletes

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Mental Toughness: The Winning SECRET of Elite Athletes


All world-class champions have something in common and it’s not explosive speed or freaky strength, as important as they are. What all champions have in common is superior mental toughness. They have an ability to dig down deep and deliver incredible performances time and time again. But how do they do it? What are their secrets? Well it’s not magic; in fact, it’s actually rather simple. These champions have built mental toughness through strategic preparation techniques. Here are five simple, yet extremely effective techniques used by top athletes to build mental toughness and deliver award-winning performances:

1. Accepting Failure

Before you can be truly successful you have to fail. If you never fail, you’ve never pushed yourself passed your comfort zone into deep waters. Failure is one of the greatest character builders ever. When you fail, you have to dig down deep and figure out where you went wrong, how you can overcome it, and how you can prevent failing in the future from your learning’s. Once you have failed and accept it, you realize that it’s not the end of the world and you no longer have to fear it. Putting that fear behind you, your mind becomes clearer and you can push beyond your limits and into the winning zone.

2. Mental Rehearsal

This is a time-tested practice used by successful athletes and even non-athletes in all assets of life. Mental rehearsal is repeating in your mind over and over the actions and techniques required to achieve success. If you are a basketball player, you rehearse each individual phase of the jump shot over and over in your head. The goal with mental rehearsal is to create automation. When you watch incredible athletes like Lebron James you think that the game just comes naturally to him. Well it does now but that wasn’t always the case. He trained his mind for years and years on every little detail in every step, dribble, and shot he takes. Break down the skills of your sport and repeat them over and over in your mind, visualizing yourself performing them with perfection. With time, the skills will become second nature and you won’t even have to think before executing them.

3. Success Imaging

This technique is taught to champion athletes by some of the best performance coaches in the world. Super athletes like Tiger Woods and Chuck Liddell have used this technique to win championship after championship. This technique works by remembering and drawing upon a memory of a time when you were successful. For Tiger, it would be the feeling of that perfect shot. How did the swing feel, what did it feel like when the clubface hit the ball. How did that ball travel through the air and where did you see it land. More than just the feeling of performing the perfect technique, you remember how you felt at that very moment inside. That unexplainable feeling of success, the warm inner glow of positive energy. You have to bring that feeling back into your mind and use the energy from it to repeat that successful action again and again. This technique takes some time to master but every time from now on when you perform that perfect action, take a minute and make of mental note of how it felt so you can imagine it again the next time you need to deliver a winning performance.

4. Goal Setting

As it’s said in fighting sports, the more you bleed in training the less you will bleed in the fight. Training hard day in and day out is the true test of mental toughness. The best way to keep focused and stay mentally tough is by setting your goals. The first step is to define goals that are clear and measurable. Set target numbers and apply dates to your goals.  You should have both short-term and long-term goals. Have a goal for every week and even every day to stay focused on because it can be hard to stay focused on long-term goals that might be 6 months to a year away. Once you have your goals, hand-write them on a piece of paper. I suggest this instead of typing them or storing them on your computer or phone because when you see them in your own handwriting you are instantly reminded that these are YOUR goals set by YOU and it makes you commit to them that much more.  Check off your goals as you achieve them as a motivator that you are making progress towards winning.

Mental toughness is critical for all sports, and hard-hitting contact sports like Rugby are definitely no exception. The mind is the most powerful tool of all.

5.  Support Team

Mental toughness can come from within but it can also come from outside. Having the right individuals around you is critical to achieving success. Always surround yourself with like-minded people who are as driven as you are to push hard, be the best, and achieve success. Negative people, or the “haters” as they are sometimes referred to serve no purpose in your life. Eliminate them and there’s nothing holding you back. Having a strong support team such as your family and friends is also great for defining purpose. Not only will you want to succeed for yourself, you will also want to succeed for them and that is a remarkably powerful motivator.


If you want to win and become a champion at your sport and in the game of life, give these five mental toughness tips a try. And remember, like any skill, you have to practice these skills over and over to get the most out of them. Good Luck!


CoachGGaetan Boutin, B.Sc Kinesiology, CSCS, CCP

Sports Nutrition Expert
Athletic Performance Specialist
Strength & Conditioning Coach

A co-founder of Strong Athlete and former professional athlete , Coach G has worked for many years with professional athletes and individuals who want to take their health and performance to the next level. From advanced sports nutrition and cutting-edge strength & conditioning programs to elite athletic performance coaching, Coach G delivers incredible results for his extensive clientele. Coach G also specializes in addressing and treating chronic and acute injuries that keep hard training individuals from achieving their full potential. His techniques are forged through over 15 years of research, testing and application and are based on his personal philosophy of achieving a healthy balance between the mind, body and spirit. Coach G can be contacted at

By |June 15th, 2012|Archives, Articles, Features|

About the Author:

A co-founder of Strong Athlete and former national level athlete, Coach Gaétan is a world-class performance coach and functional movement master who has worked for many years with elite professional and amateur athletes and individuals who want to take their health and performance to the next level. From cutting-edge strength & conditioning design and advanced sports nutrition protocols, to elite athletic performance mindset coaching, Coach Gaétan delivers incredible results for his extensive clientele. Coach Gaétan also specializes in addressing and treating chronic and acute injuries that keep hard-training individuals from achieving their full potential. To work with Coach Gaetan, email him at


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