Increasing Mental Toughness

Mental toughness can be the difference between a so-so team and a champion. How do you get there?

It can be said that the true test of a champion is not in his ability to run faster, hit harder or throw longer; it's how tough the athlete is mentally. The ability to handle the highs, lows and the daily pressure of the gridiron is key to a winning athlete. Put a bunch of mentally strong athletes on the same team, and the combination can be unstoppable.

Here are a few tips on how to increase mental toughness:

1. Don't waste your energy on things you can't control. You can't control what the other team brings to the table. You can't control the weather. You can't control the ref calls. You can focus on making your reflexes quicker. You can focus on strengthening your leg muscles and making yourself faster. Keeping your mental energy on what you have the ability to control will give you power and confidence in the moment.

2. Check negative thoughts at the door. Realism has its place. But negativity doesn't. Anything truly is possible when you have a "make it work" mindset, but sometimes, you've got to get a bit creative on how that happens. A culture of positivity and trust in fellow teammates and coaches will allow athletes to truly believe that anything is possible. That culture of positivity will feed itself and can really make a team thrive.

3. Get uncomfortable. If you aren't scared by the goal you set for yourself, you're selling yourself short. Now huge goals don't need to be achieved overnight. As a matter of fact, chunking it down into smaller goals is a great way to see success on the path to greatness. Pushing yourself physically and mentally will allow you to grow, and that growth will again feed your confidence. 

Many players come to the table already mentally tough and ready to compete. The good news is that mental toughness is contagious; a handful of players with a positive, enthusiastic and tenacious mindset will most definitely spread that mentality to the rest of the team. It's even easier to do when they have coaches who know how to encourage that philosophy.