mental toughness

If you’ve ever set goals for yourself at the beginning of the season or calmed yourself down right before a pressure performance, then you may understand mental toughness.  If you’ve ever encouraged your team to take the floor with confidence or used visualization before competition then you understand the importance of mental toughness training.  Maybe you’ve even tried to improve their mental skills. Maybe you researched how to reduce anxiety to give your dancers a competitive edge.  But if you believe in goal setting and visualization, why not implement a complete mental toughness training program for your team? mental toughness Does the thought of putting together a complete mental toughness training program for your team leave you wide-eyed and overwhelmed?

Let me guess…

You love the idea of a mentally tough team and believe it will give you a competitive edge, but have no idea how to implement it

Your schedule is already packed and there’s no time to add more things to your plate

I get it. Busy coaches like us don’t have an extra second to spend time on anything that doesn’t directly help our team improve and excel. But what if mental toughness training is the one thing holding you back from your peak performance? If you’ve ever felt helpless watching a dancer consistently miss a skill you know she is capable of then you understand how important mental toughness is for dancers.  If you’ve ever spent all year training your routine only to have one fluke mistake ruin your chance at a championship then you know what it feels like to wish you had done more.

In my experience, there are 4 major myths that keep coaches from implementing a mental toughness training program for their team. Even if they know it will be the difference in the team’s success. I’m going to expose these myths and show you that you are capable of helping your dancers reach their peak performance. You are capable of mental toughness training.

Myth #1:

Mental toughness is something you either have or you don’t.

Many coaches notice that some athletes are naturally more resilient to failure or calm under pressure and that leads them to believe their dancers are either mentally tough or they’re not.

Yes, there are some personality traits that make resilience easier and anxiety less likely. However, mental toughness is not an inherited trait that you either have or you don’t. It may take longer for some people to learn mental toughness skills compared to others. But mental toughness is absolutely trainable. The human brain can adapt and change, it’s a phenomenon psychologists call neuroplasticity.  It means your brain can learn and revise its strategies, even in adulthood.

So how do you train your brain for mental toughness? It’s a little complicated, but basically, you can learn specific strategies to help you control your thoughts, emotions, and physical arousal. That control allows you to be focused and dialed in during competitions so that you are able to reach your personal peak performance. You can learn mental toughness at any age and any talent level.

Myth #2:

Mental toughness is about the mind and I’m trained to teach athletes physical skills so I shouldn’t be teaching mental toughness.

While mental toughness is certainly a mental skill, it’s not just about the mind. A lot of the power of mental toughness training is in the mind-body connection that it creates. As a dance coach, you understand how to teach physical skills. It’s not a huge leap to talk about the connection.

Take anxiety control for example. When your mind is relaxed, your muscles are relaxed, but similarly, if your body is tense, your mind is also probably full of negative thoughts.

Control one, you can control them both.

Your mind and your body work in tandem and they influence each other. Even if you are only comfortable coaching physical skills, you can teach dancers to use their body to train their mind to relax. Then, when you feel more comfortable, you can also learn to start with your thoughts and control your mind in order to calm your body. Remember the concept of neuroplasticity from myth #1. As a coach, your brain is capable of learning and growing as well. Just as you once learned how to do a pirouette or how to improve your flexibility, you can learn how to improve your mental toughness and teach your dancers to do the same.

Myth #3:

Mentally tough people are focused on winning. I just want my dancers to have fun.

Mentally tough dancers are definitely focused on a clear goal in the future. They are often optimistic, future-focused, and driven. But that doesn’t mean they are all about winning. In fact, mentally tough athletes are actually exceptionally good at staying focused in the moment, enjoying themselves, and not getting caught up in the pressure to win.  Coaches who teach mental toughness skills help dancers focus on mastery and learning new skills. They take a challenge head-on as an exciting adventure. Mentally tough dancers have a goal in mind and may visualize a future as the champion, but they learn to find the fun in the journey. And when you’re having fun, the win is more likely to happen.

Myth #4:

The need for mental toughness training is a sign of a weak athlete.

Many coaches believe mental toughness training is only for dancers who have anxiety disorders and find themselves frozen with fear before a competition. Or only for those dancers who have reached a plateau they can’t overcome. In reality, mental toughness training is for everyone, regardless of skill level, competitive experience, and future goals.

Mental toughness training is a chance to improve your skill set. It’s simply a way to advance and showcase the physical skills you have spent so many years training. Think of mental toughness training as an essential piece of the puzzle. No matter what level you are at, you always want to perform your personal best. Mental toughness makes that possible. If you train your mental skills, your technique, whatever level you are at, will be significantly enhanced. You will be more capable of demonstrating your technique when it counts.

Are you ready to take the next step?

Now that you know the 4 mental toughness training myths, I encourage you to take the first step. Step 1 in implementing a successful mental skills training program with your team is to create a goal setting strategy session. To help you do this, I’ve created a cheat sheet for you, “The 5 rookie goal setting mistakes and how to avoid them.”

This cheat sheet will help you design your first (or best) goal setting strategy session with your team. I hope you will be able to get your team started off on the right foot. A good goal setting strategy can improve confidence, enhance skills, and unite a team towards a common purpose.  I’ve been goal setting for years both personally and professionally, and I definitely made some big mistakes in the beginning. I want to save you the time and help you do it right the first time so I’ve compiled a list of my 5 rookie mistakes and how to avoid them.

Related Posts by Passionate Coach

How to Inspire a Resilient Athlete

Discover 7 New Ways to Build Your Team’s Confidence

Mental Toughness Training: How to Overcome Mental Blocks

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