Are our athletes ‘mentally weak’?

When a national athlete or team fails in a competition, the common excuse is “mentally weak”.

Psychologist Philip Lew stressed the human mind can be trained to become mentally stronger.

“There are two categories of people – those who are mentally strong and mentally weak … We all have the ability, including athletes, to become stronger,” said Lew, who is a psychology officer with the National Sports Institute.

“Your mind is capable of being overwhelmed by situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown. In sports, anxiety, feeling pressured, and scenarios beyond one’s control can further affect an athlete’s routine.”

Lew said this will lead to indecisiveness as the bigger the stage, the bigger the pressure, thus some athletes face mental breakdown.

“The phenomenon happens when an athlete is trying to project the past into the future. ‘I’ve done this before, can I do the same again?’ or ‘What will happen next?’. It’s almost like paralysis of analysis. The athlete is analysing too much until his or her brain becomes paralysed. The athlete’s state of mind becomes so messy and chaotic.”

To overcome this, Lew said athletes need to condition their minds.

“It’s almost like sharpening a sword, the more athletes train for it, the stronger and sharper it becomes and the more efficient it will be.

“It’s all about polishing the psychological skills.”

He added instead of focusing on mental weakness, he’d rather look at the athlete’s psychological readiness and his or her resilience.

Lew said this on talk show The RSS with HD last weekend.

The RSS with HD is aired on YouTube at 4pm every Sunday and is hosted by actor Rashid Salleh and Twentytwo13 editor Haresh Deol.

Catch BA of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Kenny Goh on this Sunday’s episode of The RSS with HD.