The psychological skills the athletes must show in competition and in training are often difficult to list, because the risk is to do a very long and too generic list. Nevertheless, today I would like to try to identify, from my point of view, the skills that can represent milestones in the athletes’ sport careers.
- Self-control – it means knowing what are the behaviors to put in place to address the competition requests. The self-control requires respect for opponents; at the same time the athletes must be the leader of themselves, to overcome the difficulties posed by the races and opponents with the aim of providing the best performance.
- Readiness for action – the athletes are persons oriented to act and therefore they must be ready to kick a ball, pulling a shot, to run in a precise rhythm, to anticipate opponents, to start rather than conclude effectively a race and so on. Readiness goes with high levels of situational awareness: the athletes have to know what to do at any given time and do it at their best.
- Toughness and resiliency – I did not completely understand the distinction between these two psychological concepts, but I believe the athletes should continue to do the best even when they are tired, when all seems lost, during the decisive moments, at the end of the race, when they feel confused but know they have prepared an action plan for those moments.
- Attention – Robert Nideffer said the attention is the only important thing in the decisive moments. I agree and, that is the reason, I consider it as the ability allowing to lead the mental commitment. The athletes have to know what to look for, knowing when to use a broad attentional style oriented toward the environment rather than a narrow attentional style, more focused on very few external factors. Without proper attention they cannot understand what is going to happen and to move in advance.
- Optimism – The explanation of the performance results is an important factor, because it determines the expectation in relation to the future competitions. Humans are often engaged to explain their positive and negative results. It is therefore essential, the athletes develop an optimistic perception of their performances, because if they explain the positive results in term of luck or lack of competent opponents is unlikely they improve and gain a winning mind.