While watching the world’s best athletes compete for a spot at the Olympic Games many people may wonder why some superb athletes succeed and others are eliminated from the roster despite their exceptional talents, documented athleticism and consistently superior performance. Are there additional factors that weigh in the balance of exceptional achievements at a given time?
As a psychologist, I certainly consider the athletes’ exceptional emotional state as part of the formula for their unique achievements. Their physical strength, emotional endurance, determination, concentration and positive self-talk play a role in their ability to reach their highest potential during a performance viewed by millions of people.
Entrepreneur, James Caan published an article titled: “It’s your ATTITUDE not your APTITUDE that determines your ALTITUDE.” He agrees that skills, training and experience contribute to one’s competence, but stresses that, “without real enthusiastic attitude the best skill-set will count for very little.”
Research findings of various studies of athletic success identified three top traits that athletes must adopt to enable them to reach their highest potential: Confidence, Motivation and Management of Anxiety.
Tennis champion, Jimmy Connors, succinctly described the need for boosting an athlete’s confidence, “The whole thing is never to get negative about yourself. Sure, it’s possible that the other guy you’re playing is tough, and that he may have beaten you the last time you played, and okay, maybe you haven’t been playing all that well yourself. But the minute you start thinking about these things you’re dead. I go out to every match convinced that I’m going to win. That is all there is to it.”
In “Stress in sport: Experiences of some elite performers” Researchers J.G. Jones and L. Hardy reported that “Elite athletes tended to have a very high level of confidence and that the athletes felt that these high levels were needed for the performances they were aiming to achieve.”
Motivation studies of athletes by Hardy and Parfit supported the known notion that in order for athletes to achieve their highest level of accomplishment they “Must motivate themselves to train hard on a daily basis, regardless of their momentary fatigue, disinterest or reluctance to exert themselves at that time.”
Overcoming anxiety is possibly the hardest challenge and the most burdensome issue for elite athletes. In separate studies researchers P.L. Broadhurst and D.O. Hebb found that though arousal enhanced performance – if the arousal became too great the athlete would begin to doubt his ability and his performance would decline.
In “Exploring self-talk and affective states in sport”, James Hardy and associates found a relationship between positive self-talk and affect though some athletes reported negative self-talk as motivating them.
- Marvel at the exceptional physical and emotional efforts superior athletes exert to achieve their feats.
- Appreciate athletes’ tenacity in guiding their bodies, minds and psyches to perform and entertain us.
- Use Confidence, Motivation and Management of Anxiety to achieve your own life goals.