Why Athletes Need Mental Resilience


Noah Hamula, Sports Editor

Athletes are known for being physically prepared and able to perform at a high level. This requires practice and excessive training. However, many people forget about the importance of mental strength. An athlete cannot reach the peak of their physical performance without first having a firm mental foundation.

NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is the perfect example of someone who is mentally strong. In game 5 of the 1997 conference finals against the Utah Jazz, he dropped 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and hit the game winning 3 pointer all with the flu.

“I almost played myself into passing out” said Jordan after the game. “I came in and I was almost dehydrated, and it was all just to win a basketball game. I couldn’t breathe. My energy level was really low. My mouth was really dry. They started giving me Gatorade, and I thought about IV.” Jordan suffered so hard physically, but it didn’t stop him from putting on a show.

There are another group of individuals who not only have excellent physical shape, but insane mental strength. Navy SEALS are trained to survive in the most extreme situations and to withstand the most intense mental challenges. Navy SEAL Andrew Wittman know this better than anyone. “Resiliency allows you to bounce back from failure and face pain, challenges, and even temptation, head-on without drawing back.”

The SEALs are all taught the 40% rule in training. Marquis Jet founder and Navy SEAL Jesse Itzler once said in an interview, “When your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only forty percent done.” This rule has pushed not only SEALs, but athletes as well.

Gaining mental toughness isn’t easy, but anyone can obtain this skill. Lolly Daskal has studied psychology for 30 years and came up with 5 different ways someone can build mental toughness.

  1. Emotional Stability. It’s important to keep your head and perform at any level no matter the mental state you are in
  2. Perspective. Sometimes it can feel like the whole world is against you, or the pain is too much to bear. Keeping the end goal in perspective can help build this mental strength and motivation.
  3. Readiness to change. Adaptions and flexibility are important when things don’t go your way. Always be prepared when things go south.
  4. Focus. Keep the end goal in focus and be ready to face challenges when they are in front of you.
  5. Good attitude after setbacks. Everyone experiences setbacks and failures. It’s important to learn from these experiences and use them to succeed.

Mental strength is equally if not more important than your physical strength. Training your mind will make it easier to reach your full potential. When you feel like you can’t keep going, remember you’re only forty percent done.