The beauty of athletics is the dance between opponents, each responding and reacting to the other as they pour out their mental and physical strength in an attempt to become the victor until the next battle.
Author Jon Gordon (@jongordon11) says this about fear and faith: Faith and fear have one thing in common: they both believe in a future that has not yet happened.
With FAITH, we have confidence in our ability and/or our preparation. Having faith in our future gives us energy and creates excitement for what is coming.
With FEAR, there is an absence of confidence, which is the result of a lack of preparation, or a belief that our preparation was not enough.
Choose faith. Choose to prepare yourself and believe in your training. It has been said many times and I believe it to be true, “Champions do not rise to the level of competition, instead they drop to their level of training.”
Old wisdom I have found to be true reads, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I knew Mr. Denton cared about us. I don't know how, but I just knew. If you want to be an effective teacher, coach, manager, or parent, you need more than a title to be influential. Whatever role you have in a person’s life, you can only impact a person as far as they let you.
So take it from someone who wants nothing but success for your child – let them play other sports. Let them develop to their full athletic potential and let them experience trying a sport in which they are not a superstar. The lesson they learn from having that experience will benefit them long after they hang up the cleats and tackle being an adult.
During warm ups, instead of running a lap or doing sprints, we see how fast we can run from the huddle to the line of scrimmage, run a play for 15 yards, then sprint back to the huddle. They are timed and they want to get faster. We have 8 plays so we do it 8 times. We celebrate shaving seconds off our time. Lining up fast during a game is intimidating to the other team, and parents love it.
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
Every coach wants their athletes to be mentally tough. However, when I ask a coach to define what being mentally tough is, I find most coaches do not have a definition, or their definition has something to do with playing through pain. Although an athlete who can stay focused on their role when uncomfortable because of injury is considered a mentally tough action, is does not define what it means.
My definition of a mentally tough athlete is one who is:
Able to access their talent at the highest level they are capable on a consistent basis regardless of the situation.
Here is how I break that down:
“Able to access their talent...” You can have all the talent and strength you need to be competitive, but you must be able to unleash all the hours of training you put in to make it to game day. An example of being able to access your talent, despite a tragic situation in one’s personal life is Brett Favre, who played a football game the day after his father passed away. That day he passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns…he was able to access his talent. He was mentally tough.
“...at the highest level...” Whitey Bimstein, a long time boxer and trainer once said, “Show me an undefeated fighter and I'll show a guy who's never fought anybody.” His point was to show that an athlete should seek out the best competition even if that means losing once in a while. As a society, we place too much emphasis on having no losses on our record. Defeat can be the seed of discontent you need to motivate you to improve your game.
“...they are capable…” Your level effort has nothing to do with the competition. There is an old adage: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” You can only control three things as an athlete - your effort, your attitude and your preparation. Get in the habit of always playing at the height of your ability and you will see that ability continue to grow.
“...on a consistent basis…” Anyone can be great in a random chance moment. History is rife with championships being won on the last ditch effort of some one-hit wonder that only has that one situation to their name, then fades shortly after. Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s fish wrappings, so to be great you need to be consistent.
“...regardless of the situation.” A mentally tough athlete treats practice and pre-season competitions with the same intensity as a league or post-season game. In most sports, the next play or the next move is the same no matter if it’s at practice or in the last few minutes of the championship game. The only difference is the audience.
Mental toughness is developed through hard work and dedication. Help your athletes to take ownership of their athletic endeavors by letting them learn from their failures. If you put a pillow under their knee every time they fall, they will never learn the important lesson of learning from mistakes.