There is a Ben Hesen….There are a 1000 swimmers, who unless you follow the sport, you’ll never hear of. Ben Hesen may be one of them. He was the 2008 NCAA Champion in the 100 Backstroke and an NCAA All-American. He even finished fifth at Olympic Trials in 2008.

How Close is Close?

The one aspect about The Olympics that people don’t often grasp is “how” close is close. On Wed night, Ben Hesen swam the 100M backstroke at the Olympic Trials in 53.03, which would have won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 2008. In fact, there are only 3 individuals outside of the US who have a faster time than Hesen does in 2012. However, he finished fourth at the trials in one of the fastest fields ever in the event, and will not be on the team.

Unlike most other sports, where there is usually “a tomorrow” in the sport, Olympic Trials is THE gateway.  Only the Top 2 in each event represent the USA at the games. The selection process may be debatable, but it is the American way. If you swim fast enough when it matters most, you are part of the team, end of story.

These individuals that you’ll never hear of have been champions since high-school, never miss a workout, and train like no other. A rest day to them can mean running a few miles or just lifting some weights. These are the one’s with the motivational quotes oozing out of them, like hard-work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard and so on. Their social lives are often difficult as well, because of the amount of time and effort that goes into it. So what happens when Ray Liotta from Goodfella’s comes out and says and now it’s all over and that’s the hardest part.”  

And Now What?

Many hold on and many struggle with letting go. It makes sense, it’s tough!!! Think about when you lost a game, match, or had a set-back, now magnify it by 100x. It’s the same reason why athletes cry when they actually make the team; they realize how extremely hard they have worked to make it! In order to “make it”, one has to be ALL IN.

People ask me, what would I say to an athlete? Honestly, “no idea.” All I know is that the relationship must be built up over time and a few key points should be evident before getting to that point.

First, there must be a passion of loving swimming. Not to just to love winning, but to love swimming, swimming, and more swimming. Next, they should actually contemplate that they won’t make it. After all, it is a possibility, so why not examine it? Is it still worth giving it your all, even on the bad days? They have to be willing to give everything, day in and day out, with no guarantee of success. Do we approach life, sport, and/or our own careers this way?

“If you want the ultimate, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price.”-Point Break 

There are no guarantees in life. All we have are opportunities.

Vince Frank at the Cru Golf outing at Stonewall Orchards took advantage of his opportunity.  The par-3 9th hole, held the hole-in one contest for $10,000. However, one had to pay $10 to be eligible.  He was the only one in his group to donate the money, because he said “it was for a good cause.”

Vince being the seventy year old golfer did not even see the ball roll in the hole on the 168 yard shot, but his partners sure did and they let him hear it. The odds of Vince making the hole in one were not very good, but we all can learn from this event.

We should focus on what’s possible, not what’s probable.  If we pay attention to the probability, it can severely dampen the number of opportunities we take. In many ways, we regret what we DO NOT DO, rather than doing something and it not turning out the way we want. If we at least do something, then we are giving ourselves a shot. Go ahead, pay the $10.

Imagine for a second that Vince DID NOT pay his $10. He would have had a more difficult time moving on from NOT winning, than making his hole in one.

Read How to make a hole-in-one. 

Lastly, he even gave a bit of credit to me because he said my talk at the beginning of the event made him NOT  think about the shot, even if it was the only one he did it for all day…Maybe I should send him an invoice? Nah, that’s why they brought me to speak…

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   

First, it’s not the QB, a kicker, or even a lacrosse goalie. The toughest position is not only stressful and demands thick skin, but it is completely thankless; it’s the referee. Think about it, the best officials are invisible, because they only warrant consideration when something bad has happened. Nonetheless, the best games possess a flow, fairness, and game management only available through the toughest position on the field.

In addition, we all have to be officials at certain points on our own team or career. Interviewing the toughest of toughest positions on the field (SEC football officials) has revealed three keys for all of us to follow:

1)   Get excited, not nervous-

Prior to a game, referees get the same type of feelings and thoughts as the players. The best get excited rather than nervous and the difference rests in how they perceive the situation. They must view games as “we get to call a good game,” rather than “I hope I don’t mess up a call.” It’s the same in our own lives, when we get excited; we view things as challenges (something we get to do) rather than threats (something bad can happen).

2)   Communicate-

Since the game has changed in 20 years from big guys or fast guys, to big and fast guys, there are more “gut” or “marginal” calls on the field.

The head official is only one addressing the crowd at the game, so he must administer the call not only correctly, but also timely. When you see the referees gather together, it may even come down to the head official’s decision to make the call.

3)   Re-focus-

There are approximately 170-180 plays in a game and referees never call a perfect game. The officials focus on their preparation, rely on their mantra of “ready, every play”, and the pre-snap routine. Every official has a different role on the field, so each person goes through a specific mental checklist that helps them focus.

However, mistakes still happen. Thus, some of the referees actually have a physical re-focus cue to help them on the most important play; the next play. When something goes poorly in your own life, what is your re-focus cue?

 Dr. Rob Bell is the author of Mental Toughness Training for Golf, an AASP certified Sport Psychology consultant, and caddy on tour. He consults with athletes, coaches, and teams at all levels helping build and enhance their own mental toughness. His website is and you can find him on Twitter @drrobbell

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.

how to make a hole-in-one
How to Make a Hole-In-One

Dr. Rob Bell

How to Make A Hole-in-One, Run a Marathon, and Write a Book

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 simple, but not easy strategies on how to make a hole-in-one, run a marathon, and write a book. 

  • 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 Sports Psychology at the university, I had my students write out their own bucket list, except they had to frame the list so they would see it every day.

You have to get lucky… That’s how to make a hole-in-one…


If I hit it close, it was a good shot, but it went in, so I was lucky (irony). My first hole-in-one came with a 9-iron in my hand. Hey, it counted. 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 very 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 an hour and half of writing, while she slept.

It works, I’ve written six books on mental toughness so far…

  • 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, and not many miles per week, or at 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 and a full Ironman and an ultra marathon. 

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

top mental toughness coachDr. 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- 

book changed my life

This Book Changed My Life

Last week, A retired pastor approached me after a talk and asked if I knew the work of Logotherapy.

I wrote about how I changed my life from being a loser...

Well, this book changed my life as another reason why…

If I ONLY got to choose ONE Book, this would be it. 

The book was Man’s Search For Meaning…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 for 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 Admiral 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 ones, 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 sometimes necessary to find meaning, AND it is unavoidable…..


dr rob bell speakerDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes and is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included three winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. 

Please Check out all the books and the mental toughness podcast - 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness as we interview expert athletes and coaches about Mental Strength and their Hinge Moment. New blog posts are published weekly. 

  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.

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.