Why are some people better at sports than others?

Mindset and mental resilience play a crucial role in an athlete’s performance

EXPERT TALK by Mónika Bölcskei

Sports showcase incredible feats by athletes who excel effortlessly – or so it seems – in their fields. It leaves many who are watching from the sidelines wondering: why can’t I do this? Is it because I don’t train hard enough? Or is DNA the reason why some people are better at sports than me? In my professional opinion, the answer to this age-old question involves genetics, training, and mindset.

A matter of genetics

Genetics and biological attributes play a vital role in an individual’s athletic prowess. Inherited traits, such as muscle fiber composition and body structure, greatly influence performance in activities ranging from sprinting to endurance sports. Biological attributes like body type, cardiovascular efficiency, and neuromuscular coordination further contribute to athletic performance.

Training, training, training

While genetics are a foundational influence, proper training and skill development are equally essential in realizing athletic excellence. Regardless of genetics and biology, anyone can significantly enhance their agility, stamina, strength, flexibility, and technique. What it takes is diligent practice, specialized training programs and proper coaching. World-class athletes typically spend countless hours sharpening their skills, adopting optimal strategies, and refining their physical abilities to remain at the top of their game. 

Mental health makes the difference

In a 2009 publication, Professors of Kinesiology and Health Studies Jean Côté and Wade Gilbert already emphasized the significance of mental health for the performance development of athletes. The authors highlight that athletes face high training loads, intense competitions, and stressful lifestyles, leading to issues such as overtraining and identity crises. This is prompting coaches to prioritize athletes’ mental training to unlock their full potential


In my professional experience, too, an athlete’s mindset and mental resilience play a crucial role in their successes. Clients with determination, focus, and a growth-oriented mindset often exhibit superior performance. Great athletes stand out for their ability to handle pressure, bounce back from setbacks, and maintain composure during competitions. Mental techniques, including visualization and goal setting, are therefore vital in maximizing overall performance.

Love of the game

Finally, passion and motivation serve as powerful catalysts. A genuine love for a sport fuels an athlete to put in the necessary effort, overcome obstacles, and consistently strive for improvement. Additionally, discipline and dedication are integral characteristics displayed by exceptional athletes, exemplified through their adherence to rigorous training regimens, a strict healthy diet, and an unwavering commitment to their goals. 

Mónika Bölcskei is a mental health coach with more than 15 years of international training experience in HR and sports.

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