build mental toughness

End Practice Early to Build Mental Toughness?

There are not many secrets to success.

However, one secret that I think holds true is the ability of one more. When we are tired and fatigued, the key is to be able to endure just one more. One more rep, writing one more page, one more sales phone call.

Just one more builds mental toughness. 

Often, it is effective. Yet, there is a prerequisite to implementing this strategy and that is we first must have the passion and will to do “one more.”

As parents, we have announced this just “one more” technique. We push, just a little bit, (some unfortunately, a lot) for our son or daughter to give more effort. Add up the number of practices and seasons of just one more and that is a lot of externally driven motivation in the form of nagging, or strong-arming our son or daughter into practice.

Sometimes, It’s tough to be driven when you’re being driven. 

Here’s what to do instead:

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Hall of Fame tennis coach Jeff Smith, used a different technique to help build the passion in his son Bryan Smith. He would end practice early…

He would first tell Bryan how long they were going to hit tennis balls on the court, say 45 minutes. So, after 20 or 25 minutes, he would then end practice early.

Bryan, having fun, didn’t want to end early.

Instead, He would ask his dad to continue and the seed of passion and internal motivation was slowly built without the nagging, pleading, or coercion of one more.

dr rob bell

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 books on Mental Toughness- 

Don’t “should” on your Kid

Excerpt from book: Don’t “Should” on your kids: Build Their Mental Toughness 

Wade was a very talented 12-year-old hockey player, but he was a coach’s nightmare. He would only play hard when he felt like it, which was, unfortunately, only about a quarter of the time.

Not surprisingly, Wade’s father also worked whenever he felt like it. He had Dilbert comic strips up in his office and often bragged about how little he worked.

Children will become in many ways what their parents are, and we shape their belief systems. However, parents cannot give away what we don’t possess ourselves.

There are three types of people: winners, losers, and at-leasters.

These are not only three types of people, but actually three distinct beliefs that we form as children. They shape who we eventually become.

Winners and losers make up a very small percentage of the population. For example, when anyone discusses athletes in life, no one really talks about the twentieth or fortieth best athlete in that sport. They reference just a select few, the very best, the top .1 percent. Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Lebron James, Missy Franklin, etc. They are referencing winners, athletic geniuses blessed to excel. These people will be successful in any situation.

Losers, on the other hand, are born from a combination of poor circumstances and choices and a belief that everything turns out bad for them. These are the victims in life. It never is about them; it’s someone else’s fault. Again, a very small percentage of the population.

Most, however, are the at-leasters.  At-leasters are not losers—far from it. They are involved, active, and in it. But, they lack the ingredients at becoming winners. They believe that “at-least” we showed up, “at-least” we weren’t last, “at-least” we weren’t as bad as them. It’s a defense mechanism that protects them from the pain of not being winners. It is a struggle for at-leasters to get out of their comfort zones. We have all been there, but we don’t have to live there.

At-leasters go through the motions. Settling is okay. Playing it safe was good enough. Our comfort zone was comfortable. We would rather be a “maybe” than a “no.” Be good, but just not too good. If I was really good one day, I’ll just say, “Yeah, but I’m not that good.

The “at-least” mentality is toxic and systemic. The environment of youth sport has perpetuated at-leasters.

Youth sport that gives everyone a trophy has created an at-least mentality. At least we got a trophy… We don’t create winners by making everyone NOT losers.

However, youth sport often stresses winning so much over development that it has also created a culture of at-leasters. The short-term is magnified and the long-term is miniaturized. The long-term is looked at through a telescope and the short-term through a microscope.

No one wants to lose, but when we only emphasize winning over development, it causes us to self-protect. One way or another, “at least we weren’t last” creeps into our mentality. We rarely create winners or mental toughness by only treasuring winning.

Athletes today have become perfectionists and safe. They will do everything they can to please coaches and parents. Athletes learn that in order to please coach and parents is to just not lose.

It’s hard to be driven when you are being driven. We can also inadvertently drive a child into the at-least mentality. It’s not about you—it’s about them. We can’t make it about us, and it cannot become about us. We fail when and if it does. The best sport parents seem to be behind the scenes, providing encouragement and a supportive environment.


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 Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness   


When it comes to parenting, your example isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing. As a professional speaker and author who studies and writes about what the best do better than the rest, I was blown away by what was possibly the most amazing audience I’ve ever spoken to.

I recently spoke at the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association annual convention. Those folks are leadership personified. The biggest, fastest, strongest, healthiest group of people you’ll ever meet.

What they do in their daily work with the people they lead (college athletes) applies to each and every one of us in the work we do leading our children at home and our employees in the workplace. As I thought about the phenomenal impression they all made on me it got me thinking about precisely what leadership is at its core. Even more so, it made me take a long hard look in the mirror.

You’ve probably hear the expression he or she “just gets it”. Well, when it comes to leadership these coaches ALL “get it”. I didn’t see any negative, lazy, disengaged, unhappy, overweight or unhealthy looking people sitting in that audience anywhere. ZERO… not a single one. I also didn’t see them drinking at the bar late into the night which is a common occurrence at most conventions. These folks were the epitome of high performance. They didn’t live vicariously through the success of their athletes either. They were too busy creating their own success. They were the epitome of mental toughness and simply walked their talk.

The entire experience was a great reminder that when it comes to parenting, your example isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing. Think about it… How do these coaches convince world-class athletes they are capable of being bigger, faster and stronger? Quite simply they do it by being bigger, faster and stronger themselves.

“Our lives are a mirror, what we give out gets reflected back to us by others.”

Whatever you’re doing is contagious. We are all living proof of that statement. I know from experience:

  • Balance is contagious. I found that when I wasn’t modeling balance for my team, they weren’t balanced.
  • Conversely, when they were nervous during a big game or a key timeout, if I was calm their nerves would settle and they’d become calm. Calm is contagious.

Think again before criticizing your child, their coach, or the officials. Bite your tongue instead of yelling at your child to run faster or work harder. Besides, yelling is a poor excuse for coaching and for parenting.

I recently had an executive coaching client complain to me that most of his employees were “negative and low effort” (his words not mine). I encouraged him to stop keeping “banker’s hours” and be more positive and kind to them. Which, to his credit he did, it’s no small surprise that they just posted their best quarter since 2006.

We need to be the change we wish to see in others. Kids need a model to see not just a motto to say. They crave authenticity and can sniff out B.S. a mile away.  Their B.S. meter is calibrated with even more sensitivity and is more accurate than the adults you lead.

I share this with you because being at the CSCCa convention was an important reminder that I need to heed this advice as much as anyone. I have a 9 year old who is ADHD. If I want her to be less impulsive and more mindful, I need to practice mindfulness and emulate it better for her. I also have an 11 year old child who is entering a very emotional stage and prone to drama and outbursts. If I want her to be calm and patient, guess what I have to get better at.

About John Brubaker | Performance Consultant
John is the author of two award-winning books:

John_Brubaker_high_resJohn Brubaker is a nationally renowned performance consultant, speaker and award-winning author. More importantly he’s a husband and a father. John teaches audiences how to obtain better results in business with straightforward tools that turbo charge performance. Using a multidisciplinary approach, “Coach Bru” helps organizations and individuals develop their competitive edge.

James Altucher’s podcast and book stated the three types of business that SELL themselves. If you can help others out with one of these three issues, you’ll be rich.

We need mental toughness in order to achieve our goals, and my fun 4-minute talk was given on the mental skill needed to accomplish one of these…

Check out the awesome SPARKS Talks here…


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 books on Mental Toughness-