Mental Toughness?


I abhor the term “mental toughness” and all the implications and baggage that comes with it. It is not part of my coaching vocabulary or practice. I want to help my athletes be mentally strong and understand why they are doing what they are doing. There are tough workouts and there are easy workouts all directed toward one goal: Preparing a robust adaptable athlete who is ready to thrive in the competitive arena. That requires mindful highly focused training that is done with intent and purpose. It means that the athlete has been there in mind and body every day with a clear focus on the task at hand. No puke workouts or punishment training because that is the fastest way to get the athlete to turn off their brain. Every workout demands intense concentration, so much so that the competition is easy. Be a coach and be a professional and help your athlete get better by guiding them and respecting them!

  • Shaun

    It sounds like your replacing the words mental toughness with intense concentration. When I tell my athletes to be mentally tough, it’s to remind them to stay focused on the task. I don’t see what’s bad about that.

  • PLU32

    Hi Vern, I feel that maybe more of your frustration with the term mental toughness is directed at it’s missuses and blatantly stupid training protocols masked with it’s name. I believe mental toughness is a true concept but the idea of training it is something that is grossly misunderstood. When the ill informed use it to mask an absurd workout that makes people puke and does the dumb things you reference, it does a disservice to the term as a whole.
    If you look at military special operations selection programs and the millions of dollars being poured into their sport psychology and neuroscience programs; there’s some real evidence of change in those programs to better develop the mind and including the ability to persevere (mental toughness). Grabbing and learning from those programs in depth and finding out what can really drive an athlete to have a stake in the game, in training and in their teammates is a tough thing but, the it is the coach’s role to find that and foster it. If they use those principles of the selections programs effectively to push each person to their own limits and build them back up and continue the process again and again; those coaches can properly develop that “mental toughness”.
    The typical exposure of it that I believe you’re used to is the version that people should ABHOR. I feel that a great example of a complete method of this that’s applied to the civilian world is Mark Divine. His SEAL Fit program does some very cool things to help develop those traits and does so in the most effective method I’ve every seen outside of the Special Operations community. Take a look and see what you think