The Sports Mind Must Overcome The Sports Body

To reach the top level of sport the mind must rule the body but to become the champion you must have a stronger mind than all of your opposition too

Every sport is more mental than it is physical.

I truly believe that.

Although sport is a physically challenging thing I don’t feel that the physical challenges of it are more demanding than the mental ones that many athletes face.

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Take the top class elite athletes as an example. There is very little difference in the physical ability of one over the other. Team sports winners are decided by better performances on a given day and not on their ability to show an array of skills with a ball.

The same is true of sports that rely on one athletic pursuit. When one athlete is pitted against another their physical conditioning is similar to one another.

Don’t get me wrong there are those that have longer limbs than others, faster twitch fiber, a greater lung capacity, or a lower heartbeat but in many ways, their physical abilities level off and can be coached in a collective physical way.

But it’s their minds that decide who will get the prize on the final day.

And like anything when you win once and understand how to achieve that feat after that it’s the repetition of the same performance to be called the winner.

Of course, it’s not as simple as all of that but although elite athletes are incredibly physically fit it’s their mental abilities that separate the great from all the other top competitors.

However, if you go down the line in sport it’s a little bit different.

Because lower down the ranks in the sport you can achieve a lot by having a greater physical ability than others.

And as most people in this world love sport as a hobby plenty of amateur athletes continue to practice and play for pleasure at a lower level. They may look at the Super Bowl every year and imagine what it would be like to play out on the field in front of millions of people. Or they may make-believe that they are shooting three-pointers for the Boston Celtics or the LA Lakers with a crowd cheering them on.

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But they know their limitations and that it will never happen once they turn off the TV set.

Instead, they buy the uniforms or shirts of their favorite sportspeople and go down to their local community field or court to try to mimic those they see on the show.

And many of them can run the yards and evade tackles like Robert Gronkowski or they can throw a ball like Tom Brady. Or they can shoot many three-pointers just like Michael Jordan or dunk like Shaquille O’Neal.

But they can only do it in their locality on not on the big stage.

Because when the lights go on and the crowds are there and a prize is mentioned or the media is there they cringe and are unable to perform.

Some of them may have been great players when they were at High School. Or even played in Division 1 college. They may have also played a year or so in the pros.

But when the pressure is on they aren’t able to do it.

So why is that?

In the US in a given year there are up to 8 million High School athletes. Yet within a few years at the college level, there are around 200,000 Division 1 athletes. And there are around half a million college athletes in all the other divisions.

Part of that is because there are academic qualifications that need to be reached as well as athletic ones.

And by the time, it comes to professional sports the numbers drop again.

Because when college finishes and professional sport is taken into account in the US there are only between 10,000 and 20,000 athletes playing regularly in the full-time paid ranks.

Yet many of those millions of high school athletes are now more physically mature a couple of years later. Like the life of any athlete the older they get in their twenties the more physically developed they get. That means they naturally become bigger, stronger, and faster.

But the vast majority of them never fulfill their physical potential.

Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash

Now of course there are many changes in young peoples’ lives from their late teens to their early twenties. Sure their bodies get stronger but life changes challenge their minds and push them down a different road than the option of playing professional sport.

But the ones that make the professional level often have challenges too yet they overcome them and end up playing a whole career in professional sport.

In many instances, the difference is that those that make the professional-grade are that bit mentally stronger than others. They can adapt to adversity a little bit more.

But when all the professional sportspeople pit their wits against one another they there is only one winner.

And again that comes from the one who is mentally more prepared for the contest and can grind it out to the bitter end.

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Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.


Forbes, INC. & Entrepreneur Magazines, CBS, & NBC Featured, Dr. Conor Is The World’s Leading High-Performance Neuro Socio-Psychologist & Co-Authored 4 Books