Anyone can have mental toughness

We sometimes hear on TV, and the radio during a sports broadcast that a person is “mentally tough,” but what does that mean?

It’s a subjective term—it can mean different things to different people—so here is my take on being mentally tough.

First, know that sports will challenge every player at the weakest link in his or her mental and physical chain.

How many times have you seen a coach try to hide a weak defensive player on the field only to have the ball get hit right to them?

Sports expose the weak links.

The mentally tough player makes mistakes, but their focus keeps them moving forward. Further, they don’t dwell on past failures.

This is vastly different from the player that is taken out of the game mentally (and even physically) due to an error, or mistake.

They focus on a play, and let it consume them; this can sometimes ruin several games until something positive is done to change things.

Second, know that mental toughness can be taught.

Here are five tips/suggestions for teaching any student-athlete how to be mentally tough:

1. Create an environment where mistakes are seen as stepping stones, and not as stumbling blocks. Avoid dwelling on mistakes, or belittling players.

2. Identify what’s needed (ex. specific skill-improvement, concentration, conditioning) so each player is better prepared to handle a situation.

3. Don’t make excuses for a player; resist singling them out, as well.

4. Remain calm. Student-athletes will follow your lead (if you get stressed over errors they will, too).

5. Mental toughness involves the whole player so work on emotional, physical, and skillful development.

Once your players are mature enough to realize a bad play doesn’t make them a bad player you can challenge them in other areas.

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One Response to “Anyone can have mental toughness”

  1. Peter September 13, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Great thoughts and tips!

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