Words like “persistence”, “perseverance”, “determination”, “commitment”, “resilience” and “uncompromising” seem to be used to describe mental toughness: something which clearly means different things to different people.
For some people, mental toughness is about being able to maintain composure, calm and control in difficult situations.
For others, mental toughness is related to physical “hardness” and the ability to endure pain, fatigue and stress in competition conditions and still prevail.
There has been a lot of work from the academic sector to attempt to define and measure mental toughness, with most of the recent literature discussing mental toughness in terms of “situations” and that mental toughness is a complex set of different attributes expressed differently by people in different situations.
Coaches all agree however, that for competitive athletes, mental toughness is a highly desirable athletic quality: one which is as prized as outstanding physical abilities, excellence in skills and technical knowledge.
But how can you coach an athlete to be mentally tough?
Mental Toughness: Two Basic Coaching Approaches
There are two basic approaches to coaching mental toughness:
- Toughen the body to toughen the mind and
- Toughen the mind to toughen the body.
“All of us get knocked down, but it’s resiliency that really matters. All of us do well when things are going well, but the thing that distinguishes athletes is the ability to do well in times of great stress, urgency and pressure.”
Mental Toughness Coaching Approach 1: Toughen the body to toughen the mind
The core philosophy behind this approach is:
This approach has several good things going for it and it is relatively simple to do. Through this approach, athletes develop confidence in their ability to meet the physical demands of the competition environment and in their ability to deal with whatever is “thrown” at them during competition because they know ( i.e. confidence comes from knowing) that their preparation has been better in every detail than that of their opposition.
Many, many football competitions, world championships and Olympic Gold medals have been won by coaches and athletes adopting the toughen the body to toughen the mind approach.
You might also like:
Mental Toughness: For Peak Performance, Leadership Development, and Success: How to Maximize Focus, Motivation, Confidence, Self-Discipline, Willpower, and Mind Power in Sports, Business, and Health
eBooks (Personal Potential Books)