Researching mental skills of elite athletes prodcues several qualities associated with psychologically strong athletes.
Confidence, ability to manage emotions, self-motivation, use of imagery, and the ability to focus.
And one of the most valuable qualities is the ability to maintain a positive attitude. Is attitude something that separates the mediocre players from the great ones? Alone, no. Combined with other positive qualities, yes.
“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it,” said former NFL and college football coach Lou Holtz.
In an article titled “The Nine Mental Skills of Elite Athletes” on the website of the Ohio Center for Sports Psychology, author Jack Lesyk, Ph.D lists six qualities of athletes with positive attitudes:
- Realizes that attitude is a choice.
- Chooses an attitude that is predominately positive.
- Views their sport as an opportunity to compete against themselves and learn from their successes and failures.
- Pursues excellence, not perfection, and realize that they, as well as their coaches, teammates, officials, and others are not perfect.
- Maintains balance and perspective between their sport and the rest of their lives.
- Respects their sport, other participants, coaches, officials, and themselves.
There are, of course, challenges in developing a team full of athletes with positive attitudes. Often, negativity oozes its way into the team and silently builds on itself to the point where half the team is sour and miserable. It usually starts with a few dominant personalities on the team who see the glass as not only half-empty, but dirty and cracked as well. Everything is awful – practice sucks, their teammates are horrible, nothing works, it’s too hot, too cold, there’s no way the team can win, and on and on.
Anson Dorrance, the head coach of the University of North Carolina’s 22-time NCAA champion women’s soccer team, addresses this situation early every season by giving his players a George Bernard Shaw quote, “Be a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
It’s safe to say not many of his players want to be feverish, selfish little clods of ailments and grievances, so they start working on their attitude.
There is a great deal of ways to help with attitude adjustment. Dr. Carmen Harra, a best-selling author, psychologist, and relationship expert, provides six ways.
Two of them are particularly valuable pieces of advice that players can use to improve their attitude. The first is to never let people see your initial reaction. “Reacting immediately to emotional triggers can be an immense mistake. It is guaranteed that you’ll say or do something you’ll later regret,” she writes.
Dr. Hara also suggests that understanding that there’s always a bigger picture can go a long way in helping with attitudes. “Wisdom” she writes, “means being able to see past the moment and discern the greater meaning of any given situation.”
Changing negative attitudes into positive ones changes the whole team dynamic. Attitudes – both positive and negative -- are infectious. Is your team being infected?