The concept of understanding mental toughness is evasive for many. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to coach many players and one thing I can tell you without reservation is the best players were mentally tough. Itís a hard concept to explain until you see it, but itís obvious when you see a player that has it.
To clarify my point, not all of the best athletes have it. Not every big league player is mentally tough and there are plenty that never make it to the big leagues that have great mental toughness. Itís not about ability, Iíve coached many great athletes that didnít have a clue about being mentally tough and would fold under pressure. They could perform well when there was nothing on the line, but when the game was in balance, or the competition was tough, they usually failed.
On the other hand, Iíve witnessed many players with average skills, but mentally tough, perform in ways no one thought they could perform. A clutch hit, a key bunt, a great defensive play that stopped a rally, mentally tough players get the job done. In fact, the greater the pressure, the better they perform.
One thing Iíve come to understand with experience is that mental toughness is not an inborn DNA trait, but rather one that is developed over time and exposure to adverse conditions. Preparation in mental toughness begins with experiences at a young age. Parents can play a key role to begin the process of training mental toughness, but they need help along the way. A disciplined educational system with high expectations and good classroom rules, along with tough, but fair coaches (or mentors in other activities) with a positive mind set, is essential to developing a child mentally and building their self confidence, whether they are an athlete are not.
This is one of the many reasons why itís important for all children to be involved in balanced organized extra curricular activities at a young age: Karate, gymnastics, ballet, music, scouts, children and youth activities at church, or youth sports will play a part in beginning to instill the discipline and structure that is needed to develop mentally. Notice I said begin to play a part. It takes time and preparation.
Mental development is also a reason that athletes need to be involved in a proper training program by the time they are 14 or 15 years old. A training program not only helps to build power, strength, and agility, but is important in developing mentally. Players should be accountable to a mentor (trainer, coach, etcÖ) as well as the camaraderie and pressure of a small peer group, even if itís only one or two others.
If a player is involved in a training program earlier than 14 or 15, it should be for the purpose of agility and speed training, along with teaching the proper techniques in strength conditioning without weights. Before any training program is started, please consult your childís physician during their annual physical, as the development of each child is unique.
DEFINITION of MENTAL TOUGHNESS
Being mentally tough is is having the psychological edge that allows one to perform at peak maximum effort and efficiency during the demands that are placed on them during training, practice, or competition. Specifically, when the demands are greatest or the conditions become adverse.
Whenever the demands are the greatest is when the characteristics of mental triumph are the most evident. Some of the many characteristics that are evident include:
Please note, this doesnít mean that the outcome is always a win, in many cases these attributes can show up the most during a loss, especially a close loss to a tough opponent or during adverse conditions. But over time and with careful training the mental toughness of skilled players comes to light in championship games.
To have mental toughness one must practice attributes that lead to mental toughness. I wish there were a formula to follow, but there is not. It takes time and patience under the right leadership to develop mental toughness. Parents, educators, coaches, and other mentors must be systematically involved in the training process.
Also, it takes failure and the ability to bounce back. Many people develop mental toughness through the experience of failure. Good parents do not want their children to fail and I understand that. But today, too many blame others for the failure. Parents are quick to blame the teacher for problems in class or a coach when the child is not excelling in an activity. Mental toughness can not be developed properly when blaming others. In fact, the opposite is the case.
Here are a some examples of those that worked through failure to develop mental toughness and succeed:
ďEvery strikeout got me closer to my next homerunĒ. Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth grew up in an orphanage. During his playing career he struck out a record 1330 times on his way to hitting 714 career homeruns.
ďÖ..Failure makes me try harder the next timeĒ. Michael Jordan
Jordan was only 5í 7Ē when he entered high school. Because of his speed and athleticism (and an older brother named Larry that the coaches knew well) he was invited to try out for the varsity, but didnít make it. He was placed on the JV team where he routinely scored 25 -30 points a game. By his junior year, he was 6í4Ē and made the varsity team. By then, he not only had the skill to play, but the drive and determination to be successful, while demanding the same from his teammates. (Michael's older brother Larry played a big role in helping with him develop mental toughness on the court.)
Edmund Hillary failed three times before finally being the first to climb Mt. Everest.
Bill Gates (Microsoft)and Steve Allen (his Microsoft co-founder) failed at their first business, Traf-O-Matic, which was developed to analyze traffic patterns.
Walt Disneyís first animation business in the 1920ís failed after only one month, forcing him to take a job from another company at that time.
Ten Free Tips on How to Develop Mental Toughness in Your Players at
Coach Mike Posey
Expert baseball tips from a championship coach's experience and perspective offering creative insight to helping others learn the game of baseball. Sign up for our Free Baseall eTips Newsletter and receive ten free mental toughness tip
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
January 26, 2009
More Free Articles By
Get our RSS feed!