Being mentally tough will keep pushing you forward, even if the odds are against you

By Klyde Manansala | Photo by Marc Rafanell López/Unsplash

One indecision in the most crucial possession—that’s all it took for the Cleveland Cavaliers to lose their tip-off game against the Golden State Warriors in their fourth straight NBA Finals showdown.

The Cavs had all the chances in the world to steal the opening game when JR Smith grabbed an offensive rebound with 4.7 seconds left, but Smith appeared to forget the score as he dribbled out the clock with the game deadlocked at 107.

Afterwards, the veteran guard had confusing explanations, saying he knew the score was tied while his coach Tyronn Lue said that Smith thought the Cavs were up by one.

Regardless of the truth, Smith’s explanation only shows one thing: a lack of focus and mental toughness. Whether you’re a triathlete, a professional basketball player, or a mere mortal, mental block is something you have to overcome. Here’s a crash course on how to level up your game during stressful circumstances.

How Does Mental Block Occur?

You need to understand that mental blocks are a result of high levels of pressure and stress. They are hard to overcome but improving mental toughness is one way to prevent it from occurring.

Having a tough mentality as Kobe Bryant’s is one of the most powerful tools you could ever have as an athlete. It allows you to consistently perform to the best of your ability and skills even when you’re under pressure. Your brain could be telling you to stop because your legs are tired from pedaling your bike, but with a tough mental game, your mind will help your body keep pushing forward even when you are in pain.

The Proper Mental Preparation

Being physically ready isn’t enough. You have to have the right mindset through visualization—a type of mind training many athletes utilize. It’s when you stop worrying about past mistakes to just stay in the moment, focus on breathing, and think of what you want to happen. This helps decline the intensity of your stress levels and calm your mind as well as increase self-confidence, which will help you elevate your game and block any distractions.

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Always stay focused. @nikebasketball #MambaMentality

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Self-Awareness and Resiliency

Preparing mentally is the first step to surpass circumstances that will result into mental blocks during the game or race. Prior to a match or game, you should be well aware of your weaknesses and past mistakes. Resiliency is key. Back-to-back unforced turnovers, getting a flat tire, or suffering from cramps—all of them aren’t insurmountable. You only need to refocus, choose what thoughts to use, and get back to your winning mindset. With this all applied, you can quickly bounce back from those mistakes.


After his blunder in the opening night, some people, including his teammate LeBron James and coach Lue, believed that Smith will bounce back from the mental block he had that cost them a game. Unfortunately, Smith remained a non-factor in game two after a poor shooting performance, draining just two baskets out of nine attempts. Yesterday, the struggling shooting guard finally redeemed himself after showing more confidence and signs of resiliency. Smith was able to put up 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals in 33 minutes in their game 3 loss against the Dubs.

The Warriors are one win away from retaining their title and it sure looks like Smith’s positive performance came in late in the series, but his game three showing is a proof that you can always bounce back and surpass those mental blocks.

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