Whether you are in combat sports like boxing, team sports like basketball, or water sports like surfing, you need a set of mental skills to win. Chess isn’t the only sport that uses mental skills; all forms of sports are 80% mental and 20% physical. You may hear sports coaches often say this.

It is a common misconception that becoming a great athlete means only having great physique and techniques. However, sports history is very clear about it: physical strength alone does not make an athlete a winner. The greatest athletes are those who have a strong mind in a strong body.

Much More Than Just Perfecting Techniques

Training your mind is as important as preparing your body and technique.

When you’re entering a competition, technique alone won’t help you win. You need to be strategic, manage your emotions, optimize your energy level, and know how to deal with the pressure of the game. You must be able to perform your sports well at speed, under pressure, and under tiring situations continually.

Mental Skills You Need to Succeed In Sports

1. Positive attitude

A positive attitude means seeing disadvantageous situations in a hopeful light. In boxing, for example, staying focused while being wounded will allow you to find the strength to rally and fight back and win against all the odds. The strength to fight back even when you are losing comes from your belief that you can still win. And that is possible by having positive self-talk.

Positive thinkers see obstacles as a challenge and an opportunity to improve themselves. They believe in themselves and the people around them and use that energy to face any challenge.

2. Self-motivation

Self-motivation is the mental skill that drives an athlete to continue training to attain his or her goals. Athletes can use future rewards as fuel to stay committed to the task of becoming better at their field.

3. Setting high but realistic goals

Goals are important. Athletes have clear goals —they want to win. But goals should be further broken down into smaller chunks.

There are long-term goals and short-term goals. A young basketball player may aim to be as popular as Michael Jordan—that is a long-term goal. The short-term goal is that he needs to improve his dribbling now.

4. Deal effectively with teammates as well as opponents

Part of becoming a better athlete is to develop your social and emotional intelligence in sports. That’s called sportsmanship. Sometimes when we are frustrated or angry, it is tempting to blurt out words that we will regret later on. It takes mental strength to be able to have self-regulation.

When playing in a team, it’s essential to have good clear communicating with your teammates. This will allow you to win the game even under extreme pressure moments.

5. Effectively managing stress and anxiety levels

Anxiety can run high in a sports competition. This will adversely affect your performance. Controlling emotions is a mental skill that can be learned through simple daily practices. Anxiety is probably the most destructive of the negative emotions. Your fear of losing will overwhelm you and ruin your focus.

6. Maintain concentration while in competition

Perhaps the most difficult mental skill to learn is maintaining your concentration and focus while in competition. Distractions can come from many sources—audiences, your opponent, your coach, your internal dialogue. When you lose focus, you lose the game. That is the rule.

A mental preparation coach can help you develop the mental skills that will allow you to become better at the sport you love. Remember, physical prowess and skills are just a part of the equation when it comes to becoming a winner. The other part is your mental preparedness.


With the help of a mental sports coach, doing the following will help you build the mental skills needed to succeed in sports:

1. Keep a positive attitude.
2. Maintain a high level of self-motivation.
3. Set high but realistic goals.
4. Deal effectively with teammates as well as opponents.
5. Effectively manage anxiety levels.
6. Maintain concentration while in competition.