How Does Mental Toughness Work?

Are you a coach or a parent interested in mental toughness training for you athletes?

What is Mental Toughness?

It is focused, confidence, determined, and resilient especially under pressure.

Now you know if your players would’ve played with more of that, then they’d be bringing their A game in the competition, just like you get to see in practice quite often or regularly, right?

Now if you coached athletes for any significant amount of time, you know that performance anxiety and fear of failure are the biggest obstacle in playing their best.

So what can you do about it as a coach?

For starters, if you’re interested in coaching mental toughness, what you never do is to punish players for momentarily lapses by pulling them out of the game. Some coaches would respond to that by saying something like

“Well I want them to think long and hard about that mistake.”

What’s the harm in this?

As if the athlete doesn’t know that he/she screwed up and thinking long and hard about how they’re going to fix the problem. All your doing is increasing the anxiety and hurting the athlete’s ability to perform next time. You see, you are training the athlete into a fear mentality instead of a confident one.

One of my favourite quotes of all time,

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
-H.L. Mencken

Yes coaches, we all know that you have a game to win and a player that is not just performing well needs to come out and someone else given a shot. We get that, what we’re saying here is to wait until after the obvious mistake is past a little while, so the athlete does not associate being pulled with the mistake. That’s destructive and counter productive for you as a coach if you want to build confident players.

What do you want to instill in your athletes?

What you actually want to do is give the athletes the opportunity to build resilience from the mistake, to learn that they can always come back after a choke. That’s where confidence comes from. This is how mental toughness is built for the vast majority of athletic minds. Again, remember that when you pull the athlete right after the mistake, you’re instilling a huge fear of making that mistake again. It’s common sense!

This punishing mentality that too many coaches are using these days, it actually sabotages the whole team and not just the player who made the mistake. Everybody on the team knows what happened and they get the same fear belief installed.

STOP THROWING AWAY YOUR TALENT

The problem with whole sports whole, is that for every athlete, there’s two more on the bench or at the lower lever who wants to step up and replace those at fault in the coach’s eye. Too many coaches treat athletes as expendable.

When’s the right time to teach MENTAL TOUGHNESS?

The time to teach mental toughness is right after an athlete makes mistake or chokes under pressure. What you do as a coach or a parent with that athlete is that key whether it hurts or helps him or her.

Knowing Your Athletes Well Enough

Now for the sake of other side of the argument, sometimes some athletes would rise to the challenge of coming back from being pulled from the game. That is true.

If you are very aware of the psyche of your athletes and know for certain that that tactic is going to work, then go ahead and do it.

However, this doesn’t work for most athletes. If you do it regularly, you’re only hurting yourself and you’re wasting a grand opportunity to create a mentally tough athlete who will pay you back for believing in him/her.

Every coach wants wins and great performances, we all do. It is your best interest as a coach, it is up to you to study sports psychology for coaches and stop thinking that just because you had a winning season in the past that your tactics work for every group of athletes you’ll ever get.

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” -John Wooden

I’m pulling you to keep your mind open, flex with different tools and different athletic personalities. Always ask yourself:

“What’s the best way to build this player’s confidence right now?”

This is all going to come back to you. You know that a player who has a lot of confidence would outplay one without it, right? You have the ability to inspire that!

Your Mental Toughness Trainer,
Craig Sigl

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