Although you may not think it, mental toughness plays a critical role when it comes to your performance in a game. Regardless of whether it's chess or basketball, there’s progress to make and benefits to enjoy from developing a sharper and stronger mentality.

Mental toughness also goes a long way in bettering your performance as an athlete. That's not to say that physical training doesn't matter, but if you're not mentally prepared for game day, you can be sure that no amount of muscle will save you.

The Best Mental Training Exercises for Athletes
From reading about the discoveries made about athletic performance, I've seen certain habits pop up again and again that have been used by professional and Olympic level athletes alike. Trends are often key indicators of something important, and that statement no doubt bears more truth than when it comes to training.

What's worked thousands of times for many different people is likely to work for you. Maybe not guaranteed, but the chances are definitely in your favor.

1. Ritualistic Preparation

Hear me out on this one.

Ritualistic preparation simply means a ritual or process that you undergo before every game. The reason why it's ritualistic is that the process gets repeated every time, in the same way. We call it preparation not because of the physical benefits (these rituals often include stretching, practicing, etc.) but more so the mentality that it puts you in.

When your days are structured in a specific order and are carried out in that order, this creates a sign that lets your brain know "Hey, today is game day. Let's get ready." Conversely, it makes you think less now that your brain understands what it has to do for the day, leaving your mind open to focus on other things while playing.

To put it into perspective, you carry out your day like normal and follow your routine, which could be any series of events (Ex. wake up, walk around the block, shoot 10 basketballs in a row, rest for 30 minutes). Let's say today there's a practice session, so you finish your ritual and now you're out on the court practicing.

Follow that exact ritual before every practice and before every game; suddenly, a big game day no longer acts as a separate event, but rather another part of your ritual in a series of events. This helps you achieve a state of "flow" where you're more aware, focused, and present while playing.

Michael Phelps is a great example of someone who employed this same strategy and did so for roughly 15 years. Another important distinction is that frequency matters much more than time; the length of your ritual doesn't matter nearly as much as the number of times you put it to use.

So get started.

2. Goal Setting

We've all heard about goal setting at one point or another, and for good reason.

The act of writing down your goals is a great way to take your thoughts and lay them out either in writing or in typing. This helps with carving out your plans in greater detail, making your resolve for reaching those targets all that much stronger.

Goal setting is also pretty simple. All you have to do is decide what you want, and write it down:

- I want to become a professional basketball player.
- I want to win this year's Olympics.
- I want to break the world record in jumping.

It clarifies what exactly it is you want to achieve, and makes it seem all the more real, thereby having a greater impact on you. Now, there's a problem that often arises with goal setting, which is that we become too fixated on achieving the goal and from doing so lose sight of what's important.

Goals are a guide, not the end. Your final aim is not to shoot ten shots in a row; it's to become a better shooter. Goals are great for giving you direction but work well for little else, which is why you should instead focus on the process (notice how a lot of this is on systems and processes?).

The process is the training that you put yourself through each day. Look at that system and ask yourself, "What is my trajectory if I continue?" A good process will bring you closer to becoming who you want to be, whereas a bad process pushes you farther away.

Remember, losers and winners have the same goal. The work you put in and the system you follow is what'll make the difference.

3. Exercising & Cold Showers

This will probably feel more familiar.

Exercising and cold showers capture the common example of what most people think when they hear "mental toughness." It's basically to become more resilient in the face of discomfort, and these two work to that end better than most other techniques.

Exercising naturally pushes the boundaries for the amount of pain you're willing to handle. Think about it, you're actively breaking down your muscles to build them up through rest; no duh it's gonna hurt. Adapting to that threshold of pressure adds to your endurance for the next time you do a session.

Not to mention that workouts bring a ton of positive benefits that go beyond becoming more resistant, such as increased focus, improved metabolism, and lower levels of stress. The presence of multiple benefits can also be applied to cold showers.

Cold showers might be a hard one to follow through with, but it's actually quite the pair with exercise as it aids with reducing muscle soreness, thereby allowing your muscles to relax and repair. It also makes you more resistant to discomfort.

For cold showers, I'd be careful when using them to avoid catching a cold. The best way that works for me is starting the bath warm, then in the middle switching to semi-cold to allow my body to adjust, and then going for a full cold shower.

Be sure to do your research before plunging in, but it's definitely something I recommend you try.


These three training exercises can work wonders if you put them to use.

With the first and second exercises, we're merely trying to go with the grain of human nature and use its natural tendencies of habit-forming and focus-setting to our advantage. The third exercise is what'll push us beyond our comfort zone, and there we'll grow to handle tougher situations.

Author's Bio: 

Ball Amazingly is a basketball blog that covers various topics on becoming a better basketball player, information regarding basketball and training, and content made to entertain.