“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.”- Anonymous
What is Mental Toughness?
We all sort of understand what mental toughness means, but if I were to ask you for a definition of mental toughness, what would you say? When I ask my athletes, I get everything from complete silence to a wide variety of answers as you can imagine.
Mental Toughness is - The ability to keep moving forward when circumstances are difficult. This definition is important because every young, high-performing athlete will sooner or later run into difficult situations. Whether that situation is an injury, a poor run of play, a coach who is consistently on their back, or teammates who they’re not getting along with, a young athlete will be confronted with a hurdle that threatens their trajectory. Unless the athlete knows how to deal with that situation, so as to keep moving forward, it can and will take a toll on performance.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this reality. As a young talented athlete, I rarely tasted much on-field adversity. Being the captain of almost every team I played on and the team member who delivered when it mattered, my athletic career seemed to be going great until my first major injury at the age of 15. I had never previously experienced what it felt like to not be able to play for a long period of time, nor did I have the patience to endure my rehabilitation. Thus, I forced myself back to play too early and re-injured myself.
No one ever told me I would run up against tough moments. No one told me that facing hurdles is part of the process, that it’s ok, to be patient and make sure I heal completely. Mental toughness is as much about patience during the hard times as it is about giving it your all while working through the tough moments.
Again, this is why young athletes must train their brains just like they do their bodies. Neuroscience tells us that the brain can be trained just like a muscle: it grows in capacity as we train it. Neuroreceptors keep firing away as we learn and experience new things, so we just need to understand how to maximize and harness this amazing power.
So the question is how do athletes harness the amazing power of their brain and learn to become mentally tough? The truth is most (99.9%) of athletes don’t know how to train this part of their development, oddly enough, it’s the most important indicator of how far they will go.
For starters, you can use my ‘4 Keys to Thinking Like a Champion, that I went through in my previous posts. This will help them use their experiences to begin to understand and be mentally tougher.
More importantly, there’s a proven strategy that I use with a systematic approach that has helped hundreds of athletes achieve peak performance.
In the coming weeks I will be going through this strategy including mental-game tools that your child can begin to implement in their every day routine.
You can pick up your copy of ‘The Four Keys to Thinking Like a Champion’ by clicking the link here: http://www.coachgad.com/improve-mental-game/
If you have an urgent situation feel free to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to follow me on my social media.
- Coach Gad
PS. Coming soon, 'The Mental Game,' on TSN1150: