One in particular that I admire is the New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson. He has a fantastic record in international cricket and is one of the most consistent performers in the world in the different formats of the game.
Whenever I get the chance to watch him bat on TV, I’m fascinated by how he goes about batting. I’ve also spoken with cricketers who have played with him in the past and what emerges is that he consistently demonstrates three key qualities that all sports athletes, whatever their sport, could learn from.
- The ability to focus only on the ball he is facing. He will have a plan in his mind before settling into his stance, but at some point, from the bowler starting his run-up to him executing his skill, he is completely in the present, with nothing else tainting his thinking.
- A sense of belief in his ability to bat his side to victory in tight situations. He will have spent years refining his technique and adapting as the game has changed. His success will have been founded on an unwavering belief in his ability and backing himself to score consistently at the highest level of the game.
- The ability to keep his emotions in check. As games reach their climax, his ability to track and recognise unhelpful emotions e.g. frustration, disappointment, worry etc. and let them pass, means that he can keep his thinking clean and find the resources he needs to keep his focus on what he wants to achieve.
He shows a tremendous ability to keep mentally tuned into what he can influence and thus ensures that all his important resources were channeled into only the moment that really matters….the present one.
So Williamson is someone I would regard as mentally tough. Why?
- He appears able to exert control over his environment by directing his attention to things he can control.
- He looks to be able to regulate his emotional states so that he is accessing resourceful emotions when he needs them.
- I’ve no doubt that he has a clear idea of what important for him and for the team at different times and maintains his focus on this.
- He appears able to stay committed to what he needs to achieve and blocking out distractions that could detract from him achieving his outcomes
- Evidence shows that he stands up when the going gets tough – never shying away from difficult game situations and quickly weighing up risk v reward and taking the right (and not always the easy) option
- The ability to adapt his game and widen his ability to score runs in all situations against all types of bowler.
- Backing himself to achieve what he sets out to achieve – recognising that it won’t always work out as he planned it to and using these experiences to reinforce his inner belief and drive that he is good enough.
- Never allowing himself to be intimidated by an opponent – always standing up for himself by performing when it really counts
It doesn’t matter what your sport or what level you play it at, you can be as mentally tough as Kane Williamson or any of the world’s best performers. Remember that they are people first, athletes second and as people they are have worked on their personal qualities to enhance their sport. You will not have their technical and physical excellence but you can be as or more mentally tough than they are in whatever you do.
I use a mental toughness assessment called MTQPlus. This 74 question assessment produces a personal development report that highlights how mentally tough you are in 8 key areas. From there you can start to work on the areas that will make the biggest difference to you and your performance. I’ll give you the practical tools to get working on straight away.
Mental toughness has been shown to be a major factor in performance, positive thinking, wellbeing and aspirations. The difference that will make the difference to your performance.
Steve Dent is a Mental Toughness Coach and Trainer, Cards on the Table host trainer, Master Practitioner of NLP , Licensed Mental Toughness Practitioner and founder of Pro Mind Coaching & Training – www.pro-mind.co.uk