Are you mentally tough?

February 19, 2014

With high school and college basketball in the heart of their seasons, the following key factors play an important role in the outcome of the game:

–       Skill level/talent of the athlete;
–       Strength of the athlete; and
–       Conditioning level of the athlete.

But, when the game is close it all comes down to the final seconds and it’s all about who executes the shots at the “BIG” moments.  It comes down to mental toughness.  That’s what separates elite athletes from great athletes.  Mental toughness can also be shown in running a successful business, or in making difficult personal decisions, or in students knowing how to cope with their workload demands and extracurricular activities.

How does one become mentally tough? There are several characteristics:

–  Heart: March Madness is one of the most exciting times of the year.  Audiences root for their teams and cheer for upsets. Players fight for every possession, dive for loose balls, and never give up until the clock buzzes at 0:00. These athletes are playing for the name seen on the front of their jerseys; for the honor of something bigger than themselves and the team.  They are playing for their school, putting everything on the line.

–  Adaptability: Football players have to adjust their games for all scenarios – outdoors vs. dome, hot weather vs. cold weather, dry weather vs. rain or snow.  Elite athletes prepare themselves for all circumstances.  When they square up on the football field on game day, it is them against their opponents and not them against the elements/conditions.

–  Determination: What better example for this than Peyton Manning.  At 34, he underwent major surgery and endured an extremely challenging recovery.  Three years later, he took his team to Super Bowl XLVIII. He was named the 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.  It is his courage and belief in himself – his resolve – that willed him to get better and focus on playing the best football (once again) that he’s capable of playing.

–  Preparation:  Rafael Nadal plays a very relentless, aggressive and physical all-court game. He played the longest-ever final in Grand Slam history in the 2012 Australian Open, a marathon match of 5 hours and 53 minutes.  What makes Nadal so tough to beat?  His practice sessions are played at the same intensity as game day matches.  Even his warm-up practice on game day is at 100% intensity.  His opponents have said that he plays every point like its match point.

–  Receptiveness:  LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat in 2010 to help bring the city multiple championships.  Dwayne Wade was the face of the Miami Heat leading the team in assists and points scored before the arrival of his new teammates.  Wade’s openness to deferring to more talented LeBron James proved to be huge in the Miami Heat being world champions in both 2012 and 2013.

–  Integrity:  Defeat is difficult and humbling.  If you have given your all and still find yourself on the losing end, it’s important to show sportsmanship and give credit to your opponent.  Accepting your loss and learning from your mistakes is key.  Go back, practice hard and smart, so you are stronger, hungrier, and better prepared for a re-match.

Everyday life tests your mental toughness.  How will you respond?