Developing Football Mental Toughness
What is Mental Toughness? The definition varies depending on who you may speak with, Wikipedia defines it as: Mental toughness is a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances (such as difficult training or difficult competitive situations in games) and emerge without losing confidence. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_toughness)
I believe their definition is correct, mental toughness is the ability to move forward in any situation towards your ultimate goal. Easier said then done, so how do we develop and teach mental toughness. I think you develop and teach mental toughness through a positive approach and reinforcement. All too often coaches stress the negative in a play or training drill; they get into the face of the player and ask what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you do this correctly? I find that is the wrong approach; all coaches are doing in that situation is reaffirming to the player that something is wrong with him. The player begins to develop a sense of no confidence in themselves and their ability, they begin to question everything their doing and in the process we lose the aggressiveness that is needed in the game of football to be successful.
Take the Positive Approach:
Players today don’t seem to react to a negative teaching philosophy were everything is looked at as you’re not good enough, you can’t perform at the level required, something must be wrong with you. Players with that approach develop a closed mindset, always associating failure or mistakes with I’m not good enough to be successful. With that type of mindset a player will not be successful and will always think first, react second. In the game of football like many sports you need to react in a moment’s notice, without a positive outlook of yourself and your abilities you will not.
Accept Failure and Mistakes:
We as coaches must learn that failure and mistakes is all part of the players growing process and should not define who he is or how talented he is. I teach that I want you to fail and make mistakes, it’s all part of the learning process. If we truly believe that then we need to find the positive in each experience and relate that to our players. To me it’s all about getting better every day, so why not preach it! If we have that mindset that we will get better each day, then we must show and teach our players it’s OK to try and fail, as long as we are learning and getting better, we are exceeding.
Turn a closed mindset into a growth mindset:
When we find and teach the positives in what players are doing they begin to develop that Mental Toughness that is required to move from one play to the next and forget about the good or bad that just happen. When a player is not confident in his abilities he associates failure or mistakes with not being successful and develops a closed mindset to taking a chance; thinking first instead of being aggressive. When a player knows that even if he makes a mistake, he will get positive feedback and learn from the experience they start to develop that growth mindset. The mindset of taking a chance will make me better and help me grow as a player and a person.
Positive is always better then negative:
When you begin to develop a positive approach and attitude towards your players and how they perform the entire program begins a positive change of events. Everyone in the organization looks at failure and mistakes as part of the growing and learning process. What begins to happen is success begins to take place because everyone has lost that fear of failing, they have truly develop the mental toughness to MOVE FORWARD know matter what happens.
When your team develops a move forward attitude you start to reach new highs and milestones; as a program you begin to win those close games and big situations because your staff, and players are no longer thinking with a closed mindset, but a growth mindset; where good things will happen if we are aggressive and take that chance. When you reach that stage the pieces of developing a championship program are in place.