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10 Most Mentally Challenging Sports

Those who do not play sports are not familiar with the mental concentration it takes to pay some. A great deal of sports is indeed played in your mind, sometimes your own inner voices shaking the confidence out of you like a cold sweat.

When it comes to team or individual sports, athletes have described both team and individual sports as mentally challenging. Here is a list of the most mentally challenging sports:

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1. Baseball

As physically demanding as the sport is when it’s your time to step on the diamond, the downtime leaves you with your thoughts for a great deal of the game. Too much time to think and you can psyche yourself out of even tapping the ball with your bat.

Despite what many think, a great deal of muscle memory goes into playing baseball. Visualize the best techniques you know before, during, and after practicing each one to prepare your muscles to best execute each. Having trouble landing many hits in succession may shake your focus, which is why a steeled mind is required.

Visualizing where you are sending the ball is as important as visualizing how you will get yourself to that base. Hold fast to the belief that your hits and runs will be good.

2. Golf

Considered one of the most challenging sports in the world, a rookie or professional with the right mindset can experience great joy playing the game. Playing the sport of golf is always challenging, regardless of your skill level.

According to the late, great Arnold Palmer, “The whole secret to mastering the game of golf – and this applies to the beginners as well as the pro – is to cultivate a mental approach to the game that will enable you to shrug off the bad days, keep patient and know in your heart that sooner or later you will be back on top.”

Most professionals have a pre-round routine or pre-shot routine to psyche themselves up and prepare mentally. How one evaluates their own performance may also have an effect on the player’s mental focus.

The movie Happy Gilmore showed us how the smallest of annoyances can completely ruin our performance on the course. Remain calm between holes, maintain your steely focus, and take the round back from your competition.

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3. Tennis

The majority of us are no stranger to violently tossing a racket after a frustrating round of tennis. In addition to being one of the most physically demanding, it is also one of the more mentally challenging sports. Professionals are no stranger to their performance being affected by shaken nerves just before a major event.

Tomas Berdych says “The mental side is an important part of the tennis puzzle. If you are able to master all areas of being a professional athlete, you can be successful. My mental coach has taught me very simple things, such as creating a system and a routine in your daily life that helps you to work.”

There are many pros in the sport that have a team psychologist to help them through the toughest of mental blocks. Because the court’s a one-on-one area, it is important to keep your mental focus on the game and avoid taking notice of outside events.

Train to bring your focus back to the game just as much as you practice a backhanded serve.

4. Gymnastics

Gymnastics is a sport that requires a great deal of coordination, muscle memory, and laser focus. The acrobatic moves involved in the sport require a great deal more strength than most people believe it would.

One of the most common things for a gymnast to do is compete against themselves, often criticizing their own performance for missing a mark they hit two times before.

“Everything is about your movements and precision and timing, which is what gymnastics is about,” says Shawn Johnson.

Requiring both self-discipline and determination, typical practice schedules are 5 days a week, consisting of sessions 3 hours or longer in length.

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Gymnastics requires complete and total mental focus on achieving your goal. Losing one’s focus during a complicated or aerial routine can spell disastrous consequences.

5. Swimming

You wouldn’t think swimming would be such a mental sport, right? Indeed it requires an athletic build, but it also requires great mental focus as well. Swimmers often fall into something called the ‘7-day self-sabotage cycle,’ where they cast doubts on their abilities and stress more than necessary.

Elka Graham says, “In training, everyone focuses on 90% physical and 10% mental, but in races, it’s 90% mental because there’s very little that separates us physically at the elite level.”

Whether the practice is mental or physical, it’s all about preparing for the next big swim.

6. Cycling

Cycling is known as one of those sport where you are constantly exposed to an enormous amount of stress. For many, this sport is all about mental toughness and simply said – it’s not for everyone. The easiest part about this sport is preparing the body for the race and creating the plan. However, keeping your mind on track is by far the most difficult part.

Cycling demands constant psychical development in order to handle the competitive pressure. The crucial thing here is being able to control your nerves because if don’t manage to control your nerves you will never reach your full potential. Pushing pedals and moving legs up and down for hours, becomes a cry for help at one moment. Staying cool in those moments is a matter of mental skill, and that moment is what diverse winners form the rest of the crowd. Also, cycling is an ideal sport for overcoming failure and getting the most out of it. They learn from their mistakes and leave them behind.

In addition, this sport is also about strategic planning and strategic approaches, so even if it seems that they are in agony or thinking about lowering the pain, they are actually thinking about their next big step.

7. Rowing

You wouldn’t think rowing would be such a mental sport, right? Why is mental strength needed in that sport, as it seems that they only go back and forth, and working as a team? However, what people often miss to see is that rowing is a combo of psychological strength and psychological functions that are a result of enormous psychical effort and commitment together with psychological endurance.

Some even go that far that they describe rowing as a living nightmare. Rowers hard such a strong kick-off of the race.

They have to pull their weight through the water, together with the weight of an extra coxswain, along with a 200+ pound boat. Basically, they need to race at 40+ strokes each minute for about 30 seconds.

Every stroke demands perfection and each rower need to be perfectly aligned. Because they are so dependent on each other, just one move that’s less than perfect will affect stroke of each rower. This brutal, but yet wonderful sport demands constant focus, as there is no ‘switch off’ button.

Best rowers in the world enter each race logically and without emotions, although the most popular phrase on this sport says: “when you can no longer row with your legs, row with your heart”, but that is the last option.

8. Rock Climbing

People have a tendency to look at this sport like fun and easy going sport, similar to running. However, this sport is anything but easy going. It just looks easy when the climber reached a certain level of professionalism.

The mental strength of this sport lies between climbing 3000-foot mountains, going to multiple mountaineering journeys and trips, and fighting the gravity.

Rock Climbing goes beyond physical ability. This is a sport of the mind, about reaching that point and getting them safely. Rock climbers are devoting a lot of their practice to mental training.

This is one of those sports that teaches you about failures first. But what is unique about it is the fact that you have an opportunity to fail safely here. Human response to falling is an instinctive and hurling body through the air is a direct fight with this belief of letting go. That’s why one of the most lessons in rock climbing is how to fall safely.

Rock Climbing is about pushing the body to do what the mind envisioned. During that process, a constant mental push is mandatory, where one needs to convince the inner being of achieving more.

9. Mixed Martial Arts

This is a sport where the mind becomes trapped as soon as the fighters step into the rope space. Mixed martial arts is a full-contact combat sport.

This sport stands for allowed use of grappling and striking techniques, that may be standing and on the ground. This sport is less boxing but more taxing. There is no ‘pause’ button once the battle begins.

One can be easily knocked-out in just a few seconds. Mixed martial arts are a perfect example of mind controlling the body. When fighters are mentally in zen they can fight for hours. On the other hand, if one steps into the ring with a un-focused mind that step may be easily the last.

There is no place to hind once the battle is on, and it all falls down showing strength in being 90% mental and 10% physical. Being closed in a small space with another human against you puts you in danger of being hit anywhere and it all comes down to – “The best fighter never wins, it’s always the guy who fights the best.”

10. Boxing

Two people wearing protective gloves and throwing punches at each other sums up what the boxing is. At least what people see when they are looking at people within the ring.

Boxing is known as noble sport and boxers always point to that it’s not possible to understand how exhausting boxing really is until you put your foot into that ring. Each round calls for focus, strength, determination, strong will, and exceptional fitness level to be able to carry body and mind together from round to another.

Even more, boxing is one of the rare sports where you actually don’t know what to expect, because you don’t know the level of damage one can experience. Therefore, boxers always train to expect the worse.

Being closed in a ring with another person puts you in a chess atmosphere, where you need to think about strategical moves and staying alive. Your body and mind are reaching completely different level once you step into that ring.

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Conversation (7)

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  • Darrell

    Long distance running and cross country running are also mentallly challenging. Ask any Triathlete. To run at maximum velocity, while judging how much energy to dispense, over several miles is extremely mental.

  • frankbambino

    Baseball is perfect for small and frequent injuries. I can tell you that from my experience.

  • Joe Walker

    Swimming is not for everyone. You either go pro, or you stay in the sand

  • erika_angel

    i’ve done sports all my life. tennis is so challenging that at times i cried in the middle of the game simply because i wasn’t strong enough. i had to do a lot of mental work before playing my best

  • Eleanor Craig

    i don’t think boxing belongs here. they are basically fighting.

  • todd83

    tennis is the hardest

  • Michael Flores

    I’ve tried many sports in my life and have never seen a more mentally challenging sport than golf. Requires a lot of patience and stability

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