“Mental toughness is the ability focus on the next most important thing.” – Jack Clark, Head Coach, Cal Rugby

Ask your players – or any group of players – if they think they are mentally tough. I’m sure most of them will raise their hands. Of course I’m tough. C’mon, man. Even if they don’t know what it really means, they know they are supposed to be tough. It is good to be tough. If they grew up playing sports, they know toughness is a positive value. The best players are tough. That’s why most of their hands will go up.

But do they really know what it means to be mentally tough? My guess is they don’t. Ask the same group what mental toughness means to them, and I bet you get silence. It’s a buzzword that we like to use as coaches, but if it’s really important to us and our teams, we need to define it for them, and put it in behavioral terms.

I’ve always loved the definition Jack Clark uses, the ability to focus on the next most important thing. As coaches we talk about it a lot as the “next play” mentality. The guys that can really move on to the next play, regardless of what just happened, those guys are mentally tough.

If you are upset because you didn’t start the game, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you take a play off in practice because you didn’t get the ball, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you don’t cut hard because you don’t like the offense, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you don’t run back on defense because you got fouled and didn’t get the call, you aren’t mentally tough.

If yesterday’s game is affecting today’s practice, you aren’t mentally tough.

If a bad call takes you out of the next play, you aren’t mentally tough.

If stuff that is happening off the court is affecting the way you play on the court, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you are bored with the routine of practice, you aren’t mentally tough.

If it bothers you to play out of position, you aren’t mentally tough.

If a coach screaming at you reduces your energy level, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you walk out of a huddle and don’t know the play call, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you stand on the side in shell drill until a coach forces you to sub in, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you stop playing hard in a pick-up game because you are down 6-1, you aren’t mentally tough.

If playing in front of a loud crowd on the road bothers you, you aren’t mentally tough.

If playing in front of no crowd on the road bothers you, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you can’t sacrifice a night out because you have an early morning practice, you aren’t mentally tough.

If a beef with teammate affects whether or not you pass him the ball, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you feel like the coach has something personal against you, you aren’t mentally tough.

If the coach has to tell you the same message repeatedly, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you refuse to own your mistakes, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you don’t communicate with your teammates, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you bail out in help side defense, you aren’t mentally tough.

If playing a great team intimidates you, you aren’t mentally tough.

If playing a bad team changes your approach to the game, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you are jealous because your teammates get more attention than you do, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you scream at your teammates every time they make a mistake, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you jog back on defense after a turnover, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you jog up the court after giving up a basket, you aren’t mentally tough.

If running into a screen affects your ability to finish the play, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you can’t get through a 45-minute workout without checking your phone, you aren’t mentally tough.

If you have to explain yourself to the coach every time he coaches you, you aren’t mentally tough.

As a coach, I know I can win championships and sustain elite success with players who are mentally tough.

 

 

 

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