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Which Is More Important for Athletes
Physical or Mental Preparation?

Mahendra Bajiya provides some advice on how to cope with everything that competition brings with it.

It often happens that experienced athletes develop their systems of fighting expectations, so they almost do not care whether they play the Olympic Games or local competition. This is possible because they have developed unique psychological characteristics. But, the physical aspect must be brought to a high-level as well to be match fit.

“I consider it a tripod of performance – physical, mental, and emotional. What happens if one leg of a tripod is knocked out? It collapses. To determine whether someone is ready, they would need to be mentally, emotionally, and physically ready,” Dan Garner, who has coached three Super Bowl winners and an Olympic gold medalist, recently said in an interview with Betway.

Top Athletes vs Rookies

Athletes have a pronounced ego and vanity, and it is such a mental structure. They are characterized by incredible emotional stability. They can endure what 99% of ordinary people cannot. Athletes often lose their temper, throw down the towel, quarrel with the referee… It is a weak control of emotions. But, you cannot throw top athletes off-balance that easily. The reason is that they are constantly targeted - both physically and mentally with hitting and provocations - and over time, they have built up the aforementioned emotional stability.

However, that stability is not only innate. Physical abilities and sports skills are worked on throughout the career, but the same kind of treatment deserves mental preparation - the best coaches are aware of that, and their players go through a kind of "drill" that strengthens their "head".

Adapting to a State of Pain

Through many years of training, the athlete learns to get used to both fair and unfair. Matches are not common life circumstances; it is a battle. Only training that is conducted in pain, either physical or mental, gives good results. When we learn something new, then we feel mental pain, and we need exceptional concentration.

When athletes adapt to the state of pain, then they stagnate because training becomes a routine for them. Training that is on the verge of conflict between coach and player is training that elevates the mental aspect.

For example, can a national team work on psychological preparation in a month? The answer is “no”, and that role is taken over by the federation, clubs, and the entire system in which one athlete grows up. Athletes must be selected in a certain way, to have grown up in the system of younger categories and when they merge there, to know that they are prepared in the same way, brought up, to experience the competition in the same way.

Still, psychology is just the icing on the cake. If the athlete is not physically, technically, and tactically well prepared – psychology is useless. First, all those factors need to be ruled out, and only then to talk about the “head”.

Olympic Games - Chaos and How to Deal With It?

The Olympics are specific compared to all other major competitions. They are special because most of the competitors are used to having some of their ideal conditions, peace, and rhythm. In the Olympic Village, that can hardly be achieved because everyone is in a crowd, there is constant chaos, the rooms can be tiny.

"Acclimatizing to conditions is a big factor. If you are going to play in different conditions, particularly when it is hotter in the subcontinent, you need to give yourself enough time to adapt and perform at peak levels,” Tumi Masekela, the strength and conditioning coach for the South Africa men’s cricket team, said.

Then, transportation and organization are very complicated, it requires a lot of adjustments, and that is the biggest challenge for athletes - to maintain their rhythm despite the noise and fuss. When someone wins a medal, they celebrate in a restaurant, while another athlete has a crucial match in an hour.

How to Adapt?

For success at the Olympic Games, it is necessary to provide similar conditions to those that will be in the competition and the change in altitude and time difference must be taken into account. Also, it is crucial not to change the pace to which the athlete’s body is accustomed during the preparations - these are more mental than physical pieces of training.

Every athlete needs to find their formula for how to cope with everything that competition brings with it. It is essential to build contemplation so that athletes see only themselves and what they need to do. They should give themselves positive messages so that the environment does not influence them.

Everyone’s thoughts, body, and emotions are connected – with psychology. Athletes act on all three things, and they change them. It is individual for each athlete – some get the maximum when they are nervous before the match, while others are at the peak when they are completely calm, “zen”, before the match.


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • BAJIYA, M. (2020) Which Is More Important for Athletes – Physical or Mental Preparation? [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article570.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Mahendra Bajiya is a blogger & freelance journalist who writes for the larger sports publishers.