Mental Toughness was in the news again recently when Tom Coughlin (Super Bowl Champion Coach) at the NY Football Giants Victory Parade said he spoke with President Obama, Obama praised the team for its mental toughness and its resiliency and said "to remember that all things are possible for those who believe". Yes I realize using football as an example of mental toughness makes hockey players laugh, but it serves to bring up the topic. Our vision of someone chewing glass does not make them mentally tough. Mental toughness goes much deeper. I've seen way too many athletes, coaches and parents not understand this key to success.
As you prepare for the playoffs this is what you need to understand about mental toughness and what it really means.
Depending on how you want to look at it (from actual research) there are 3, 7 or 12 markers that describe mental toughness. Most people when they talk about Mental Toughness are referring to just a few behavioral examples. I can tell you that being mentally tough is not just about being a monster on the ice and plowing through any obstacle like a zombie on steroids.
Mental Toughness begins with "PPR"-Perseverance- Persistence -Resilience
Perseverance: A sticking to a purpose or an aim; never giving up what one has set out to do.
Persistence: Not giving up, especially in the face of dislike, disapproval, or difficulties.
Resilience: Power of recovering quickly.
The other behavioral aspects are very important because people tend to focus on just a few of them.
Here is a list developed by a researcher under the supervision of an old friend of mine. He surveyed all the research on mental toughness and then surveyed athletes and coaches regarding their perceptions. This is much different than looking at a micro sample or voicing an opinion on what mental toughness really is.
Unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals.
Unshakable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponents.
Insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed.
Bouncing back from performance set-backs as a result of increased determination to succeed.
Thriving on the pressure of competition.
Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it.
Not being adversely affected by others' good and bad performances.
Remaining fully-focused in the face of personal life distractions.
Switching a sport focus on and off as required.
Remaining fully focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specificdistractions.
Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress (in training and competition).
Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events (competition specific).
It is important to look at all of these. Many people possess the ability to have some of these as a strength, while at the same time having a few as a weakness. A good coach or sport psychology consultant can help athletes understand strengths and weakness and develop plans to effectively become mentally tougher. Neglecting what the research indicates to make understanding mental toughness easier, does not necessarily help athletes.
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Athletes from all over the country have been seeking out Mike Margolies for close to thirty-five years for his expertise in helping them live up to their potential. They have sought his counsel and unique teaching style to learn about the game within the game. Mike founded Sport Psychology Consultants in 1983 and has helped over 2000 athletes. Mike has taught at four Universities and completed research at the United States Olympic Training Center. Mike Margolies is available for workshops, team and individual consultation, assessment and as a speaker. His new book is called "The Athlete within You- a mental approach to sports and business" It is for athletes and non athletes working to achieve more in sports and life. http://themental-game.com/
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