Most of my life, I have been a sport obsessed honk, not only playing, but also following every sport, in every possible venue.  For instance, as a kid, I used to watch EVERY SINGLE match of Wimbledon on HBO during the summer. I just assumed that the best win, end of story. I had no idea that there was a mental component to winning or even playing consistent.

In 1992, my beliefs changed. Reebok had launched a campaign titled Dan or Dave, who is the best athlete in the world? Who will take home the Gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics? The competition was between Dave Johnson and Dan O’Brien, two USA decathletes.

credit fortifies

Even before the Olympics began, during Olympic trials, Dan O’Brien was leading after the 1st day of competition and on record-setting pace. However, during the 8th event, the pole vault, Dan O’Brien stunningly failed in three attempts, scored zero points, and drifted to last place.  He said, “it was like a dream, I wanted to turn to somebody and say, “Do something.”

However, he also said something I’ll never forget. During his weakest moment, he said “I pity anyone who goes against me in the next four years.” I was so intrigued that anything like this had happened that I began to follow his career, even cutting out the newspaper clipping [above] from that day!!!

Dan O’Brien began to see a sport psychologist to help with his mental preparation. He admitted that there were too many variables in his preparation and he needed to become more mentally tough. Well, in 1996, he won the Gold medal in the Decathlon in Atlanta and set the all-time record.

His trials and successes were the impetus in my own journey of becoming a mental coach. I knew from that moment I wanted to help athletes feel the greatest joy of performing well when it mattered the most.

Dr Rob caddying PGA Tour

I often say “simple, but not easy.” The steps are simple, but it does take hard work, a few mental skills, and some luck.  I am fortunate enough to have achieved these milestones and simply want to share the (3) simple, but not easy strategies how to run a marathon, write a book, and make a hole-in-one. 

  • Write out your bucket list for mental toughness. 

In college, I heard about Ted Leonsis writing down 100 things he wanted to do before he died, and I simply did the same thing.  When I was teaching Sport Psychology at the university, I had my students write out their list, except they had to frame the list so they would see it every day.

You have to get lucky… I had my first hole-in-one… If I hit it close, it was a good shot, but it went in, so I was lucky (irony). I am happy that I actually achieved one of the goals that Ted Leonsis hasn’t had yet, a hole-in-one.

What is it that you want to achieve, experience, visit, or accomplish? It’s easy and fun to start, but can get tough later on: because do you really want to party with Jay-Z, or ride across the United State on a Harley? Think big when writing out your list, but only write down what you really want to do.

  • Use a mentor or guide for mental toughness.

One of my athletes stated the “he” got better because he saw what the great players did and would simply repeat their behaviors, practice habits, etc. Writing my book, I used two mentors, Malcolm Gladwell and John Grisham.

First, I followed Malcolm Gladwell’s books and his writing style. He starts off every chapter with a story, and infused research thereafter to back-up the claims. Perfect! I can do that!  I used John Grisham as a guide, because he would write every day before going to the courtroom. When my daughter was born, I would take the early morning feedings, and she and I would then open up the coffee shop for and hour and half of writing, while she slept.

  • Make mental toughness a habit

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle

Starting graduate school, I needed discipline in my life, so I began running. Slow and short at first, not many miles per week , or much of a pace, but I was consistent. I then witnessed the finish of a Philly Marathon, followed point #1, and I made it a goal.

I already had a small base of running underneath me, so I just upped the mileage, talked with experts, read a book, and ran…. I ran 6 days a week for four months of training, and ran a respectable 3:32 marathon.

The best part was when my second marathon came around, I knew how to train, what worked, what didn’t, repeated the behaviors, and ran faster, a 3:22 marathon…

It’s also a big reason why I merely signed-up and completed a 1/2 Ironman…

Whatever it is that we want to do, we must make it a habit, and simply do it every day, period. “Simple, not easy.”

 

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

Man’s Search for Meaning

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Last week, A retired pastor approached me after a talk and asked if I knew the work of : Logotherapy. I replied Yes!, Viktor Frankl’s book changed my life “In fact, that is why I put his teachings in my own book.” The book was introduced to me by my psychology professor at Shepherd University, Dr. Joe Merz.  I do not believe in coincidences, so I am revisiting the book.

Briefly, Viktor Frankl accounts his personal experiences from the concentration camp of Auschwitz in WWII….

“An abnormal reaction to abnormal behavior is normal”:He stated that our greatest strength is that we can find meaning in every moment, even during our suffering. In fact, we have choice and freedom even in extreme suffering. The power is in hope….Not surprisingly, Jim Collins’ Book: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t: discusses Dick Stockdale who was also a prisoner of war.  Dick Stockdale lamented: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end…BUT confront the brutal reality of your current state.”

Frankl stated  that we find meaning in our lives in 3 ways: 1) creating a work or doing a deed- makes sense…When we do something productive, we feel good about ourselves. 2) experiencing something or someone-spending time with friends, loved one’s, or even experiencing the concept of truth can spark our deepest emotion of love. 3) attitude we take toward suffering…whoa! wait! suffering??!

It is our attitude toward events that we can’t control, only through suffering can we transform a tragedy into a triumph, our predicament into an achievement—we are challenged to change ourselves—Suffering is not necessary to find meaning, but it is unavoidable…..

  1. It is a glimpse of what Heaven will be like.
  2. have more money now
  3. Bubba Watson’s testimony after the round and that other players were there for him on the  10th green is a statement of his character.
  4. The most sacred part of the course, “amen” corner, is free of patrons.
  5. The practice rounds are like PGA Tour events. There are “roars” on monday.
  6. Even Stevie Williams has to wear the green hat at all times.
  7. They actually rake the divots on the range, while the players are practicing and warming up.
  8. Being a part of my players team, allowed me to ride up Magnolia Ln, which is akin to going backstage.
  9. Got to witness Bo Van Pelt’s ace on 16 from atop 6th tee-box.
  10. Tiger Woods behavior was just plain poor. He’s always done it, but he was winning before.
  11. There were no less than four attendants in “every” bathroom at Augusta National.
  12. A sandwich and drink is $3.00.
  13. I’ll never watch it the same on T.V.
  14. My player can win this event.
  15. Meeting TobyMac was cool.

Baseball is the only sport where “MAN” is the only thing that scores. 

  1. Win the big inning: Almost 90% of the time the team that has the biggest inning wins.
  2. 50% of time a team scores the most runs in one inning beats teams runs for that game

Key to all of this: ON BASE %

Source: Oregon State Baseball

It Screams!!! Focus on getting big!!!

Last week, A free-book was awarded for “which sport emphasizes body language  the Most”. Many answers, stated, “all of them.”Well, here is a quick read on Body Language Importance for all sports.

http://blog.stack.com/2012/03/16/mental-toughness-body-language/

Winner of Book: Mental Toughness Training for Golf: Jonathan Darling

Body language is important in nearly every sport, but it is most important in Gymnastics.

Not only are the athletes asked to execute incredible displays of athleticism, but to smile while doing it. Gymnasts have to smile after a poor routine or dismount, even though it is probably the last thing that they want to do.

“Body language doesn’t talk, it screams.”

There is a mind-body relationship. Yes, our thoughts dictate how we feel, but the opposite is also true. Our body language often dictates our thoughts and our feelings. Simply put, mental toughness requires good body language. More to come next week when the article is published….

Honorable mentions of Body Language Importance: BLI

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1)    Poker: Yes- 100% @phillippiansdac & @mitchpgapro. Practically the ONLY reason this was not #1 was because Gymnastics wins out on the athleticism, and injury factor, and that you can’t smoke and do it.

2)    Figure Skating-Huge BLI. They often have to fake it as well with their BL if they do not stick a landing and they also have to smile during their performance as well.

3)    Competitive Cheer: again, 100% on the money @bkavicky. The nod still has to go the NCAA sanctioned and Olympic sport of Gymnastics.

4) Bull-Fighting- Um, yep.

There are two types of players; practice-day players and game-day players.

Practice-day players usually have the best workouts and seemingly spend the most amount of time working on their craft. We relish in and want those who have the hardest work-ethic to be rewarded. Even hearing about how “hard” someone has worked inherently makes it seem that they have earned it.

For instance, Adrian Wilson, Pro Bowl safety for the Arizona Cardinals was on vacation with his family one month before training camp was to begin. Yet, he returned home just four days into a 17 day respite; “I cut the vacation short because I felt like I wasn’t getting any better,” Wilson says (USA Today, 2007).

On the other hand, game-day players often have the intangibles” of raising their game to a higher level during competition (i.e., Adrian Wilson). Notwithstanding that practice is the way to improve; it should be tempered with the realization that competition is the most important aspect. If we continually struggle during game-days, then making practice competitive is key.Only through competition in practice can players simulate these feelings of excitement. Setting up practices with win/lose situations is the surest way to replicate game day while at the same time utilizing practice players’ strengths.

Martina Navratilova won 177 tournament titles, most for any male or female tennis player. She was a consummate game-day player, but it wasn’t until she joined coach Nancy Lieberman that she adopted a new mentality. Nancy Lieberman’s goal: “Navratilova would train so hard that even on her worst day, she could beat anybody.”

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Ideally, the “best” players effectively combine the competitiveness along with quality practice. However, if we are the hardest worker, yet our performances are not reflective, then we must examine the quality of our preparation. Whereas, if we raise our game only during competition then we haven’t reached our true potential. Game-day players must embrace how great they can be. They should be able to transfer their game-day competitiveness into practice by setting goals that they want to achieve.

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. DRB & Associates based in Indianapolis works with professional athletes & corporate athletes, coaches, and teams building their Mental Toughness.  His 2nd book is titled The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness. Follow on twitter @drrobbell  or contact drrobbell@drrobbell.com

Check out the new film & e-book, NO FEAR: A simple guide to mental toughness .