When you’re moving up into elite-level athletics, you can’t rely on anyone else to help you reach your full potential. While you’ll have support along the way, achieving your peak levels of performance is up to you in the end. 

If you want to compete with the best of the best, you need to proactively round out every facet of your game—because your biggest competitors certainly are. 

But as important as it is to train your body to perform at peak levels, that’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Your mind is your secret weapon. 

Here’s how to harness it. 

8 Ways a Strong Mental Game Makes You a Better Athlete

As a high-performance athlete, you spend hours training your body to be stronger, faster, and more skilled.

But ultimately, it’s your mind that controls what your body does. Your mental game dictates how you physically perform. 

By understanding your behaviors, triggers and reactions, the way you interact with others, and how you perceive the game, you can intentionally and strategically identify your strengths and weaknesses—and then make it all work to your advantage.

There are eight key benefits to doing so. 

1. Acting Rather Than Reacting

When you understand yourself as an athlete, you go from reacting to acting. You empower yourself to change your behaviors based on what you want to achieve. 

This could involve:

  • Understanding what you’re good at and putting yourself in situations to do it
  • Getting comfortable with your weaknesses and allowing them to be complemented by the strengths of others

There’s power in removing reactivity from your game—it allows you to stay in control of your performance rather than hoping things go your way. 

2. Cutting Yourself Slack 

In a competitive sports environment, you’re constantly facing the expectations of others—and yourself. 

From scouts and coaches to your teammates, friends, and family, the feeling of failing to live up to what others expect of you can be crippling.

But it’s not always so cut and dry. People’s expectations of you—and your expectations of yourself—are often misaligned with your strengths.

When you understand how and why you perform at your best, it allows you to define success on your own terms based on who you are and what you need to do to thrive as an athlete.

Expectations can hurt your mental game. Cut yourself some slack, it will free you to focus on improving in your own way. Especially if you know you are the type to be critical of yourself. 

3. Eliminating Comparisons in Your Mind

Along with expectations come comparisons—and these can be incredibly tolling on your mind and your performance.

But by understanding yourself and your fellow players, both as athletes and as people, you can reduce the difficulties caused by comparisons through the acknowledgment of everyone’s own unique strengths and challenges. 

Everyone is different. Comparing yourself to those who are ahead of you is more likely to hurt your progress than help. 

4. Overcoming Plateaus

Every athlete eventually hits a plateau. And when you do, there are two ways you can handle it:

  • Get frustrated because you don’t understand what’s wrong
  • Take an introspective look at what’s holding you back and strategically work to overcome them 

The latter is the only way to move forward and make improvements, but it involves asking yourself the right questions to discover the solutions you need to implement. 

In the words of Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks, the falling tide is the perfect time to get your line in the water.

What does he mean by that? 

When times are most challenging, that’s when it’s most important to try anything and everything you possibly can. Tough times are when growth happens. And understanding yourself can help you navigate them. 

5. Finding Direction 

The last thing you want to do is waste your energy working hard on things that won’t give you optimal results. 

Instead, focus on determining what you want, understanding what’s needed of you, and figuring out how to get there.

The best way to do this is to:

  • Become familiar with your strengths and where to allocate your time, energy, and focus
  • Understand your coaches and teammates, so you understand how to interact and succeed with them individually 
  • Get clarity on what your role is on your team  
  • Get clarity on where you need to grow to
  • Knowing ultimately what will make your effort worth it

Your goal at this level should be to focus on the right things and avoid wasting time on the wrong ones. Understanding yourself, how best to interact with others, and how to bring out the best in yourself is the key. 

6. Thriving Within the System

Coaches might not appreciate us saying this, but contrary to popular belief, there’s no right or wrong way to be successful.

While many coaches and teams operate in a rigid and structured way, the reality is that as long as you’re successful, it doesn’t really matter how you do it.

The way in which you become successful doesn’t necessarily look like what other people envision, and there’s no cookie-cutter approach.

But by understanding your own thoughts, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses, you can take control over how you get to that successful outcome. 

7. Cutting Out Frustration 

When you’re feeling frustrated about your athletic performance, the worst thing you can do is to tolerate it.

Athletes who feel frustrated stay frustrated.

And by taking steps to understand the root causes of your frustrations, you can quickly break the cycle and get back to improving and performing at your best. 

8. Dealing With Adversity 

Adversity is unavoidable in sports, and this is especially true when you get into elite-level athletics. 

Whether it’s falling into a slump, having challenges with coaches or teammates, or seeing friends get traded away, these things can all start to pile up and impact your performance. 

Learning to manage your emotions can help you overcome adversity rather than letting it break you down.

And the way in which athletes deal with adversity is one of the biggest differentiating factors between good ones and great ones. 

How to Sharpen Your Mental Game

The same way you follow a training regimen to strengthen your body, you need a plan for strengthening your mind.

This starts with using tools to understand your:

  • Personality 
  • Behaviors
  • Triggers
  • Reactions
  • Emotions
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Communication style

From there, it’s a matter of taking these insights and following an actionable plan to use them to your advantage. You can grow into your potential once you know where you are today. 

That’s where AthleteDISC comes into play—an assessment that evaluates your behaviors as a means to understand how you can get the best results. 

This assessment provides you with insights about yourself based on four behavioral styles:


Dominance indicates how directly you prefer to deal with problems, challenges, and issues you’re confronted with. If you’re high in Dominance, you’ll actively and independently pursue and immediately address problems and challenges. On the other hand, if you’re low in Dominance, you’ll be more conservative in how you approach them.


Influence indicates how you deal with the people and environment and people around you—namely your coaches, teammates, and the game you’re playing. If you’re high in Influence, you’ll be outgoing, seek personal connections, and enjoy frequent interactions with other people.


Steadiness refers to your preferred pace of activity—how fast or slowly you do things. If you’re high in steadiness, you most likely exhibit a great deal of patience and prefer a calm, stable, and consistent approach, while someone low in Steadiness acts urgently and prefers a faster, change-oriented approach.


Conscientiousness indicates how you prefer to deal with and follow rules, structure, and processes. People who are high in Conscientiousness focus on abiding by the process and prioritizing accuracy and reliable facts. If you fall low on the Consciousness scale, you’re more likely to question the rules, be independent, and favor emotional persuasion over logical data. 

How AthleteDISC Helps You Perform Better

When it comes to AthleteDISC assessments, it’s important to understand that any given athlete is a combination of all the styles, and there’s no defined combination of what makes a successful athlete.

But what you get when you’re familiar with your own results is an understanding of how and why you—and everyone else on your team and in your family—act and perform the way you do.

And in understanding this, you’re able to better connect the dots of how to support your own success and the success of those around you. 

These insights allow you to carve out a role for yourself that aligns with your own strengths and the needs of the team. 

No matter what kind of person you are, you benefit from understanding yourself. The most successful athletes are self-aware. 

And ultimately, success doesn’t happen in a silo.