5 Most Mentally Challenging Sports

We have done the research and compiled a list of the most mentally frustrating and challenging Sports!  They are the most mentally challenging sports because they all have the potential to place moments of negativity in your head or throw mental demons into the mind. While it may be apparent that most of the top 5 are probably individual sports, what may be surprising is the team sport that is in the #5 position.

The most physically demanding sports

At PledgeSports, we help athletes and teams from every sport known to man raise money and attract sponsorship through our sports crowdfunding platform. Working with and interviewing so some many athletes over the years has given us great insight into tis topic.  Here’s out rundown of the most mentally challenging sports in the world today:

5. Baseball


baseball sports mental

Baseball also has a lot of downtime – waiting to go to bat and waiting for the next batter, pitchers who are waiting to take the mound have a tremendous amount of pressure and too much time to think. This downtime leaves room for doubt to creep in and take over. Not all team sports have as much downtime as baseball unless an athlete is sitting the bench.


Mental benefits of playing sport

Muscle Memory

Baseball is a sport that not only can be physical tough but also involves lots of mental courage. Muscle memory plays a key role in the game. You must use the visualisation techniques before, during and after games. When you make good plays like a great hit of the bat, you want to remember how you did that and how you may replicate it. You want to force your body to reproduce that great performance, if you cannot keep replicating the great hit you may lose your focus and therefore you need to remain mentally tough.


Baseball also requires visualisation skills, you really need to know what you are going to do before going to do it. Whether it involves running to the next base or where you will direct the hit from the bat, you need to visualise exactly what you need to happen. Stay strong in your beliefs and remain mentally tough. Surprisingly to many, this simple, yet underused technique of visualisation works more often than not.

The Fastest Sports 

4. Golf


tiger woods golf sports

Golf is definitely of the most mentally challenging sports in the world. Whether you are a professional or a rookie, it can be a really fun sport to play or one the most distressing. You are guaranteed to have challenging experiences whilst playing golf. Many golfers handle their perceived stress very similar to tennis players.

“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”. – Arnold Palmer

A pre-round routine or a pre-shot routine and how they go about evaluating their performance can play a major role in how they prepare their mental focus. Golf is a game where when things are going good they go really good, however when the train derails from the tracks it can be a huge mentally challenging problem. Between holes, you need to remain calm and believe you can salvage the round or gain a shot back from your competitors.

 The 10 most skilful sports

3. Tennis


nadal tennis sports

Who hasn’t smashed a tennis racket??  Tennis is obviously one of the most physically demanding sports in the world today, but also for one of the most mentally challenging sports. When playing tennis as a professional, many players struggle with the sabotage and the nerves the week before a big tournament.  Similar to golf and baseball, when you do not make the right contact with the ball or you cannot seem to play to your potential, it can be extremely mentally tough.

“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”. – Tomas Berdych

Many have pro players have excellent psychologists amongst their teams to help the recover from these situations, but when you are on the court and things are not going to plan, the mental and physical stress can be a very lonely experience. Only time and regathering your mental focus will help you overcome your doubts. Many players start the match with good concentration but they drop their level of concentration because of disturbing outside events, pressure situations, emotional reactions to various events and so on. A player needs to learn how to quickly and effectively refocus to be able to play his or her best tennis.

And if you are an amateur player reading, then we don’t need to explain the mental issues with this sport!

 The fittest sports

2. Gymnastics

gymnastics sports mental

Gymnastics is one of the most physical and most mentally challenging sports in the world. Many people don’t realise the amount of strength that it takes to tumble, twist, and vault and also many people don’t realise the constant pressure of competing against yourself. It is a constant struggle to a achieve a routine timing to a degree of thousandths of a second.

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

Like most sports, you are required to have a great level of self-discipline and determination. Many gymnasts practice 5 days every week for sessions of 3 hours or more. In Gymnastics, you cannot afford any mental breaks or approach a routine at half-speed. You need to be fully focused on your goal otherwise it can be extremely dangerous.

The greatest meltdowns in sport!

1. Swimming


michael phelps swimming mental toughness

It may be surprising to most people that swimming is number 1 in the list of the most mentally challenging sports in the world. Many professional swimmers fall into a 7-day self-sabotage cycle. This is a period where they may doubt themselves and grow continuous stress on themselves. As for most sports, the stakes are high and the nerves really do kick in on race days. Although once in the pool, most swimmers say they feel instantly at ease, the weight is off their shoulders and they can unleash their mental distress.

“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.” – Elka Graham 

Swimming is all about routines and practice, many swimmers evaluate each race and their overall performance after the race day and try grow and master their skills and be more mentally and physically prepared for the next big swim.

 The most difficult sports to try master

The Others

After lot’s of comments from our readers we are adding motor sports to the list.  The concentration required in motor racing is massive which can be exhausting.  Whether is rally car racing motocross or racing in the fastest motor sports, concentration lapse can lead to high speed crashes which can be fatal.  Races can go on for hours on end and you need to be 100% focused constantly making split second decisions to stay on course at high speed.

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