Book Review: Mental Toughness Training for Sports: Achieving Athletic Excellence

Wouldn’t it be awesome to be in the ‘zone’ every time you compete in your chosen sport? If you’re like me, the mindset of the champion isn’t something you were born with, and according to James Loehr, that doesn’t matter.

The foundation of this book is that mental toughness is learned, not inherited.

Loehr’s book crops up in many of the top lists of sports psychology books, so I gave it a shot. I finished it feeling inspired.

It’s a trove of ‘aha’ moments, like the following:

World class athletes aren’t athletes who have learned to deal with the pressure better. They are just athletes who are great at removing the pressure in the first place.

I always had a view of elite athletes as masters of the pressure. When I saw them perform, I just thought they had effective coping strategies. It didn’t occur to me that many of the best athletes had removed it from their performance altogether.

What’s more, I thought that dealing with pressure was good for an athlete. I reasoned that pressure would make you treat the competition with seriousness.

According to Loehr, this is incorrect.The best athletes are great at removing the pressure of a competition and just having fun. Instead of seeing a competition as a threat, they see it as a challenge.

Their main aim is to go out and have fun doing the sport they love the most. It’s not to go out and win, although as Loehr explains success can be a good motivator. It’s more about what you define as success. According to Loehr, success is reached when you’ve gone out and given it your best.

There are many other standout pieces of advice.

There’s the idea of the ‘Ideal Performance State’ or IPS, which is the goal of any athlete. In this state you’re calm, mentally focused, relaxed, energised and pumped up. You have good energy around you.

To get there, you must follow the key elements of Loehr’s Athletic Excellence Training (AET) system.

This includes practices such as:

  • Regular awareness of your training sessions to monitor your energy and feelings
  • Regular visualisation and practice ‘triggering’ positive feelings and emotions
  • Changing your mindset from perceiving competition as a threat rather than a challenge
  • Replacing negative attitudes with positive attitudes

The only criticism I had with the book was that it can be daunting to work through the large number of exercises and suggested techniques.

This is not a book you can afford to just read and digest.

This might be a positive for those that want the depth, and to be fair it’s not a book you’d want to read only once anyway.

If you’re interested in upping your performance in your chosen sport, you will find some gold in this book. There is something for everyone in its pages.

The newest edition didn’t have the strong reviews of the first edition, so this review centers around the original edition. I will buy the updated version, titled ‘The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental Emotional Physical Conditioning from One of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists’ to read through and review at a later date.

In Australia I couldn’t find any booksellers that sold a hardcopy of this book, so I had to buy a second hand version from the US. There were no kindle versions either so this made it even harder to find.

Score: 7/10

The good:

  • A book full of actionable techniques and paradigm shifts for those competing in sport
  • Avoids the ‘try your hardest/never give up’ drivel found in other similar books

The not-so-good:

  • Can be overwhelming
  • Hard to find

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