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Why did Anthony Joshua lose (and what can we learn about winners mentality?)

Why did Anthony Joshua lose (and what can we learn about winners mentality?)


On sat Anthony Joshua was dethroned in his heavyweight title bout against Andy Ruz, The 29-year-old suffered the first loss of his career as he was put down four times on the way to a seventh-round stoppage at Madison Square Garden.


His loss got us thinking about what parts of performance mindset are important and what does it take to not only become a champ but to maintain this level over time. 


There are some key sports psychology or mindset factors that champions have and by understanding that these are we can look to improve our own minds and intern our health and performance goals. 


According to research, there are several areas we must consider when looking at the mindsets of successful athletes and teams. These play varying roles and vary from player to player and team to team, but understanding and finding your own unique blend is critical to getting better. 


  • Supreme, unwavering confidence in your abilities


Confidence is best considered a belief a person has about their ability to execute a specific task successfully in order to obtain a certain outcome. Years of sport psychology research tells us that confidence is the key differentiating psychological factor between successful and unsuccessful performance in a variety of sporting settings.


Confidence, however, is dynamic, unstable and susceptible to change based on a range of factors. This can leave athletes feeling like they have no control over their confidence. This doesn’t have to be true. Athletes can take ownership and they can have more control and by getting more practice in pressure situations there confidence will only increase over time. 


  • The ability to keep a laser-like focus when surrounded by distractions


Focus is the most misunderstood mental factor among athletes. Most athletes think of focus as concentrating on one thing for a long time. Whereas it get a little bit more complex that than just that.


Research talks about the attentional field is everything inside of you, such as thoughts, emotions, and physical responses, and everything outside of you, including sights and sounds, on which you could focus. 


Focus is the ability to attend to internal and external cues in your attentional field.


Prime focus involves focusing only on performance-relevant cues in your attentional field. In other words, only focusing on cues that help you to perform your best. Depending on the sport, performance-relevant cues can include technique, tactics, your opponent, the score, time remaining, and many other cues. Prime focus gives you the ability to adjust your focus internally and externally as needed during the course of a competition.


For example, a football quarterback first focuses internally to select the best play based on the current game situation. As the huddle breaks and he moves over the center, he widens his focus externally to survey the defensive alignment. When the ball is hiked and he drops back to pass, the quarterback focuses on the routes of his receivers until he finds one who is open, at which time he narrows his focus onto that receiver and throws him the football.


Poor focus, in contrast, involves focusing on performance-irrelevant cues in your attentional field. That is, focusing on cues that will hurt your performance. There are two types of harmful cues. 


Interfering cues are those that will directly hurt your performance such as negative thoughts, anxiety, and concern over who your next opponent will be if you win. 


Irrelevant cues are those that simply distract you from an effective focus including what you'll have for dinner tonight or the project that you must finish by tomorrow.

  • The capacity to sustain a high level of motivation throughout a long season


When looking at why we do what we do as athletes, motivation is clearly an important topic. Athletes compete in and practice sport for a variety of reasons. These reasons fall into the two major categories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. 


Athletes who are intrinsically motivated participate in sports for internal reasons, such as enjoyment, whereas athletes who are extrinsically motivated participate in sports for external reasons, such as material rewards. 


Extrinsic rewards are central to competitive sports; athletes receive publicity, awards, and money, among other things, and college level athletes obtain scholarships for their talents. Extrinsic rewards, when used correctly, can be beneficial to athletes. However, athletes in highly competitive levels of sport may experience decreases in their intrinsic motivation because of the increasing use of extrinsic rewards offered by the media, coaches, and parents.  


  • The strength of will to conquer all anxiety, frustration, and discouragement


Also worth noting is the ability to bounce back from a poor performance or a detrimental mistake is crucial to an athlete’s success. As much as athletes hate to admit it, failure is a part of the game. A baseball player with a batting average of .3 has failed 7 times out of 10 at the plate. It is important to recognize that mistakes and failure are part of the game. However, when an athlete places too much emphasis on his or her failures, performance begins to suffer.


Athletes need to remain in the present moment and focus on the task at hand. It is difficult to focus on the present when the mind is occupied with an error that occurred three plays ago.


Performance errors may cause an athlete to lose control of their emotions as well as diminish their confidence. 


The whirlwind of negative emotions coupled with reduced confidence only leads to more errors and further deterioration of performance.


Developing “mental toughness” or resilience will help an athlete perform well in the face of adversity. A resilient athlete is one who is able to overcome setbacks, remain confident, and focus on the present


What are your thoughts on why AJ lost? Do you think any of the factors above have played a role in his performance? 

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