I listened in on an archived USAT webinar this evening by Jesse Kropelnicki on Mental Fitness. I can't relate the entire hour here but I will present some of the highlights.
A previous webinar that I did from his selection covered the four fundamentals of athlete preparation: training, nutrition/rest, fueling and pacing. The 5th component is mental fitness.
Competition is simply comparing comparing your ego under a set of rules. The setting of the completion, the 'is', isn't as important as how the setting makes us feel. For the mentally fit the setting becomes advantageous allowing our fitness to show.
Intrinsic motivation is simply our love of the game or of competition itself. Extrinsic would be any rewards associated with competing like medals, recognition, etc.
Optimal mental fitness would be having no fear of failure, not thinking of our performance, having a narrow focus. Its truly being in the moment. Our best performance doesn't occur at the low end or high end of the arousal scale, its right in the middle.
There are two types of athlete motivation, those motivated by failure and those motivated by success. The failure motivated tend to choose event that are very easy or very difficult. This way expectations are either met or consider so outlandish that results aren't important. Any threat to self esteem is avoided. Positive reinforcement is needed in their support environment.
The success oriented athlete sees the challenge in the event even if the odds aren't there. They like detail in their training, see the reality of the situation and look for a challenge. Some punishment for not reaching goals is ok.
Managing our thoughts is about setting goals that are 100% under our control (deciding on races to enter, our training program, rest, diet, etc), targets (like run pace, power goals, etc) and then outcomes (race results) over which we have the least control.
Areas to practice mental fitness would be confidence, imagery, positive self talk, energy control and focus.