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Mental Toughness is a Voicemail Away

One speaking event at my alma mater, Shepherd University, I made sure to invite my professor, Dr. Joe Merz. He made such an impact in my life. If not for him, then Sport Psychology and the passion I live out everyday would not have happened.

I received a voicemail from him after the event.

The voicemail was about a minute long and went in-depth about and what an amazing job I did and how proud and impressed he was. 

It felt good. I saved it. It built up my Mental Toughness. It’s still on my phone today.

That same week though, I probably left a dozen voicemail and text messages to various people. But, I could not begin to tell you what I said or wrote.

We can listen to all of our voicemail messages right now on our phone. But, we have no idea that messages we left during that same time.

Life is the same way.

We remember the most impactful people in our lives. But, we often have no idea the impact we made on someone else. We can’t know.

On a much simpler level, perhaps we remember the person who waved to us today or held the door. But, we don’t know the effect of our own kind gesture today.

We are literally and figuratively leaving voicemails all the time for people and it makes a difference, good or bad.

If we want to KEEP our mental toughness, we HAVE to give it away.

Every transaction we have with someone has the potential to be transformative. We can’t know who or what will be the hinge. People will remember how we made them feel even for an instant and it has the potential to connect them to someone else.

So are we intentional about our messages?

We give away what we possess ourselves. All of us has fired off an angry email or perhaps left a not-so-friendly voicemail. If we are filled with resentment, contempt, hatred, or lack of confidence, then that is the message of our transactions. It usually effects those closest to us as well. 

However, if we can be deliberate about leaving messages that are encouraging, positive, filled with confidence and hope, then a miracle occurs. We actually start to leave ourselves a message. If we act and behave in ways that are focused on others and building their own mental game, then we act our way into right thinking and our own mood and outlook changes.

That’s how Mental Toughness works. We have to give it away to keep it. 


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out all the books on Mental Toughness 

The Human Taproot of Mental Toughness 


The dandelion is an interesting flower. We spend billions of dollars every year to try and rid the dandelion, but it keeps coming back. 

If flowers possessed Mental Toughness, the dandelion would top the list. 

It is a very hardy plant. 

It sprouts very quickly in most types of soil, growing in many climates, with little or lots of rainfall. It also does not seem to need the approval of its owner to grow successfully. Young children generally revere it, but at the same time, most homeowners hate it, because they believe it is just an annoying weed. 

Mental toughness is akin to the hardiness factor in plants, which is a plant’s ability to survive in adverse growing conditions. The measurement of plant’s hardiness includes its ability to withstand drought, wind, cold, and heat. The process of gardeners developing strains of hardy plants and shrubs involves the process of “hardening” them to the elements. Ironically, the hardiest types of plants (i.e., weeds and dandelions) are usually the most undesirable to the typical homeowners.

The common trait among all hardy plants, however, is the taproot. The taproot looks similar to a carrot or turnip and grows vertically down as opposed to branching off horizontally. It distributes water where needed and it makes the plant very difficult to displace, because it will continue to re-sprout. Thus, developing toughness begins with developing a human taproot.

A human taproot is a perfect metaphor of mental strength. The analogy of a taproot is effective because it is unseen. Honestly, when we look at a tree or plant, we only focus on the branches, leaves, and perhaps the fruit. Unless you are a botanist, you will pay little attention to what you can’t see, namely the taproot.

Coaches and commentators often label the human taproot as “the intangibles.” These unseen qualities are often immeasurable, yet the intangibles and the strength of the human taproot determine the success of each athlete. 

Just as the strength of the taproot is what ultimately determines the longevity of the plant, the real key to success lies in the unseen, the intangibles, and one’s resiliency. (check out this awesome blog post for more info on motivation).

If the roots are not strong, then the plant and player will eventually submit to the adverse conditions.


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 a recent book- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

The Difference Between Arriving & Starting Practice


Head coaches Jim Mora & Tom Coughlin have had success at the collegiate and NFL ranks respectively. They are also well known for their policies on meetings. Players arrive 15-minutes early for meetings, because the meetings actually start 10 minutes early.

Tom Coughlin has even fined players for showing up just 2 minutes early. These coaches stressed the importance of arriving at practice…

Head coach, Mike Lingenfelter, of the country’s best volleyball program, Munciana, bases his philosophy around starting practice instead.

Think about it, if it’s a bad start, then the next ten minutes are usually a coach getting upset, followed by another 10 minutes of having to re-start and re-focus. That’s 30 minutes! This coach stresses the importance of starting practice.

A simple way to instill trust, discipline, and excitement is to address the difference between arriving and starting.

Arriving to practice should involve an emotional and team-oriented approach. Dynamic stretching, warming-up, and bonding between the players and the coaches are all part of arriving both mentally and physically. The arrival period of practice is also the best time for a coach to re-connect with players and get a sense of “what’s going on.”

Arriving early and establishing that expectation helps tremendously with the starting of practice.

Next, how do you emphasis the starting practice. This is the time that you expect your team to be focused and dialed in. If the arrival has been taken care of, chances are the start will be effective as well. Once the start of practices becomes commonplace and energetic, the start of games, matches, and meets will also become more consistent.


 

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- 


 

Why We Should NOT Have Heroes. 

I was a huge B.J. Surhoff fan. He played baseball for the Brewers and the Orioles. I didn’t just meet him, I bum-rushed into him at a bar at the University of North Carolina and I apparently freaked him out. He wouldn’t even let me buy him a beer. It was awkward.

I also was once backstage at a show of my favorite band, Bad Religion, and met the lead singer, Greg Graffin. I learned my lesson not to bum-rush him. But, since I had just finished his book, I figured I had an “in.” He merely said “oh hey, thanks” and walked away.

In both instances, I was really let down…

My son sometimes wears a Batman mask to school and bed. Maybe he has it correct, be your own hero.

I’ve met and interacted with tons of professional athletes since it’s my career. Some are really cool and great people, and some I’m not so sure about. Having athletes and celebrities as heroes though is dumb. Just because someone can throw a pitch 98 mph doesn’t make them a good person. We have NO IDEA the type of person he or she is off of the field. We are who we are when we are alone. That’s why I always thought he should not have heroes. 

To be fair, athletes often don’t have a choice if they want to be a role model, it’s a de facto position.  I was afraid to be a role model or a leader or a hero because I thought “what if I messed up?” I didn’t want to let others around me down.

It is far better to have quality people as heroes, and perhaps they just so happen to be great athletes. These types of heroes are easier to root for.  Dwayne Allen, Rickie Fowler, Derrick Brooks, Webb Simpson, Maya Moore, Fred Barnett, and Kirk Cousins are a few athletes that receive my check of approval as heroes.

I want to add one to the list, Zach Miskovic.

Zach Miskovic is a hockey player for The Indy Fuel. After a Sunday home game, all families in attendance were encouraged to skate on the ice immediately after the game while the players rejoined the ice and skated with everyone.

I can’t imagine that after a game in which they lost their third home game in a row, that skating for another 45 minutes was the best of times.

I thought, at first, that Zach merely had a ton of his own children because he was skating, chatting, and playing around with so many. You could tell he was enjoying the moment.

At one point, he skated up to my daughter Ryan, grabbed her, and skated along with her. I doubt there was even one kid on the ice who he did not touch or talk to during the 45 minutes. Real heroes seem to go above and beyond.

What’s more impressive is that at dinner that evening, we saw Zach eating at a nearby table with his friends and family. Ryan and I both went up to thank him and he said “Hey Ryan!” “Did you have fun?” Now, I struggle with remembering my neighbor’s names sometimes, but out of all of those kids, he still remembered Ryan. Wow!! A true class act!

I told my daughter that it takes as much effort to be an outstanding guy as it does to be miserable.  It’s not about messing up, it’s more about doing our best with where ever we are. Hey, Maybe it is okay to have heroes…


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 our most recent books on Mental Toughness- 

My high school baseball coach once praised me behind closed doors but criticized me in front of my teammates. I think he had it backward, but I wasn’t mentally tough at the time. He served as a huge external motivator to prove him wrong later in life.

My junior varsity soccer coach taught me the most. He would run us for miles and miles and throw in sprints along the way. We had a massive hill that we would run. The day before games, whoever we were playing, we had to sprint 50 yards while shouting out each letter of the team! North Hagerstown was a tough one. He taught me that it was a privilege to train.

Coaches are the most important person in today’s society. It doesn’t matter if you have a poor coach either. All coaches teach us something, either how to do things, or how not to do things.

Top 10 things I’ve learned from coaches

  1. You are paid to read-

I read about 15 books one year and felt pretty good. Except, when Tim Roberts told me that he read 93 books that year, he added why, “You are PAID to read.” The knowledge is out there, but it’s a coach’s job to sift through everything and communicate the main thing, whatever the main thing is.

  1. Create an environment that you are missed if you are not there-

Lou Holtz was a genius. He knew that the best place to work was determined by the environment that we created. I was a professor at a University and was no longer living my passion of working with teams and athletes. My work and attitude suffered. I had to leave because I couldn’t foster an environment where I wanted to be. Maybe some people missed me, but the school didn’t stop, and I didn’t get too many calls begging for me to come back.

  1. Listen-

The first time I met head coach Chuck Pagano was at the NFL combine. I introduced myself and told him my profession. What he did next was amazing. He asked me a question. “Hey, what’s the one thing you stress to your athletes?” I answered it well I thought, but what struck me as odd is why he asked me a question. Head NFL coaches usually don’t do that. But that is exactly how he got to where he is. He listens. Asking questions is the best straw to stir the drink of listening.

  1. Sit in front- 

Hall Of Fame baseball coaches Tommy Pharr and Tim Corbin seemed to race to see who got the closest seat at any conference session. That’s all the proof I needed.

  1. It doesn’t matter what you know- 

What matters more is what they learn. Can you communicate it and keep it simple? Great coaches master the simple. As Coach Herb Sendek said  “Simplicity is the room I want to live in.”

  1. Themes instead of absolutes-

They always seem to stress that what we do is not as important as how we do it. We want to trust our constituents to do what they do; take risks, play free, and utilize their strengths. The best coaches have principles in place, but allow freedom to work within a framework. They make adjustments and aren’t married to only one style.

  1. You’ll get fired-

There are two types of coaches, those that have been fired and those that will be fired. I was fired twice after two of my athletes had career changing wins. I thought I would have been fired after they lost. But after they won, they actually didn’t need me anymore. My job is to build capacity, not dependency. There is only a handful of coaches in any sport that haven’t been fired at some point.

  1. Be the coach you always wanted-

Everyone is a coach and we are always communicating. A coach is someone that takes you somewhere you want to go.

  1. Thank the coach- 

Coaches Mark James and Brian Satterfield end practice the same way, they shake each player’s hand. Simple, yet powerful. No matter the type of practice or outcome of a game, the ending is the same. It was created as a way to put a type of positive closure on a poor day, a way to END it positively.

  1. A better you makes a better us- 

And a better us makes a better you. We need to root for those around us to get better. Too often we look at others as competition and a threat, rather than an opportunity to improve. Frankly, it’s the only way to improve.

 

 

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   

I hate things that aren’t what they appear to be. It’s why I can’t stand politics. Nothing is what they make it out to be.  I am a wash and wear kind of guy.

I’ve had a few famous idols in my life and was unlucky enough to meet them all. They never lived up to my expectations.

I still get caught up in appearances as much as anyone. It bothers me when I encounter athletes that look like a demigod, but don’t have mental toughness. They may be the fastest on the field, but lack that all important “it” factor.  George Foreman once stated “ Big guys have everything, except motivation.”

Koala bears fit the mold of not what they appear to be.  I thought they were cute until I pulled back the curtain and exposed the wizard.

  1. First of all, they aren’t even bears, they are marsupials.
  2. Koala’s sleep over 20 hours in the day. They are lazy! Anyone actually see them moving around in a zoo?
  3. Over 90% of Koala’s have chlamydia! Gross to even think about, but it’s also the biggest control to their population.
  4. Koala’s are incontinent, they are constantly peeing all over themselves, probably while they sleep too.  Can’t be a pleasant smell.
  5. As if you need one more reason,  baby’s feed on their mother’s “pap,” that’s short for poop I think. The babies actually eat their mother’s diarehea. Sorry I had to mention it.

Rats on the other hand are NOT cute, but they are tough. Sure, they spread the plague, but you know what you’ll get with a rat. I’ll take a rat any day of the week. Rats also get a bad rap as snitches. Odd moniker, but it stuck. If I had a college mascot, I would actually name them the Rats.

  1. Rats are an animal that can tread water for over 24 hours.
  2. They  can chew through lead pipes and cinder blocks and run on telephone wires.
  3. They carry around a tail the length of their body and can fit through almost any hole.
  4. They can run up to 24 mph. That’s fast!
  5. 95% of the animals tested in laboratories are rats and the one mammal that could survive a nuclear explosion.

Rats even have one of the best kids movies of all-time, Ratatouille.  Koala bears don’t have that.

 

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   

                                      How to End Practice


I would never said goodbye at any party or wedding. I always left exactly the same way.  I hated giving the formal goodbye, because people never let you leave  without some sort of guilt play.

So, I would duck out the door.  No goodbye. Like ripping off a band-aid.

It’s probably how most people do it today in real life. No two-weeks notice, no official break-up, and especially not face to face. Just a text. Here’s how to end practice.

My daughter hates that I’ve implemented the principle of how we end everything. We Thank the Coach! She is six and gets it.

Coaches and mentors are the most important person in our lives. Everyone needs a coach!

Coaches Mark James and Brain Satterfield end practice the same way, they shake each player’s hand. Simple, yet powerful. NO matter the type of practice or outcome of game, the ending is the same. It was created as a way to put any type of closure to a good or poor day, a way to END it positive. 

Players even started looking forward to it. The worst punishment coach could ever deliver is telling one of their players, “I don’t want to see you after practice.” They got it together pretty quick.

A positive ending is essential because we can’t know the last time we are ever going to see someone. Travis Smith played golf at Ball State and I distinctly remember seeing him at practice before I left for Nashville. I don’t recall saying goodbye… He died in a car accident in 2007. There’s no amount of money his parents wouldn’t have given to spend just a few more moments with him.

Money isn’t the most precious resource, its time. Make sure you end everything with a handshake and a thank you.

 

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- 

I asked Archie Manning and Andre Agassi to read my next book and provide testimonials, because they would be perfect for its message to parents. I got through to their agents, they said, “no.” Andre Agassi  denied my request three times. I hate rejection, check that, my ego hates rejection.

Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times, his ego must not have got in the way. What takes place in my mind after losing, or getting rejected is that feeling that I’m not good enough. The setback just affirms that belief, “see, here’s the proof.”

Gym owner and coach, Tyler Miller, of Force Barbell knows when someone isn’t going to make a certain lift, because their approach to the lift is different. Feeling helpless is learned, so is mental toughness. Having limiting beliefs are learned. We set up our own mental barriers about how good we will be.

PIKE syndrome A study was done with Pike fish in a tank, where they released minnows and watched as the Pike gobbled them up. Then , they placed the minnows inside of a jar so the Pike could not get to it. It still went after it, nailing the glass jar time and time again. After a period of time, the jar was removed and the minnows swam freely, meaning the Pike fish could once again feast…This time, the Pike fish did nothing! It stayed there, and eventually starved to death!  The power of nature didn’t allow the fish to survive. The Pike syndrome has to be at least 10x stronger for us humans.

How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man? – Bob Dylan

Self-imposed limiting beliefs are everywhere. For example, “you’re good, but not that good?”  “she’s pretty, but you’re just okay?” If we are unaware of our identity and our mission, then the limiting beliefs will still arise and keep us from reaching our full potential. It’s a mental tether.

Baby Elephants As a means of training an elephant, when they are very small, they are tethered by a thick rope to a stake in the ground. As a baby, it lacks the strength to break free, so eventually, it stops trying. Even when the elephant is large enough and could easily break the rope around its leg, it refuses to do so. The massive size of an elephant learned to be helpless.

Dogs & Electric Shocks Seligman was the first to coin the phrase learned helplessness. I highly recommend his book Authentic Happiness:  His experiment with dogs exposed them to electric shocks, in which they could not escape. After the dogs actually had an out and could escape the shocks, just like the elephant and the Pike fish, they did nothing. The dogs had to be physically removed, no amount of rewards, or praise would get them to leave the shocks. They learned helplessness.

If you want it bad enough, you have to BELIEVE. More importantly, we’ll have to go through our own  shocks, mental tethers, and glass jars. These are the times of non-belief that determine if we will remain steadfast and eventually break free.

 

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   

Herschel Walker Mental Toughness

Herschel Walker was made fun at school and never went out to recess because he was afraid of getting beat up. His teacher used to put him in the corner of the room because he had a speech impediment, and called him “special.” His father used to give him a quarter to buy a snack at school. Herschel would give it to another kid, so they could buy a snack as long as they would talk to him. After the kid had finished his snack, he would go back to making fun of him.

The last day of school in 8th grade, he went out to recess and got beat up, bad. He said to himself “never again….When your name is called, you have to stand up.”

Mental Toughness is often caught rather than taught. From that Hinge moment in school, he didn’t train to become a great athlete, he trained to become a super hero. How did he do it?

He did 5,000 sit-ups & 5,000 push-ups every day! Herschel also ran on a dirt track every day, with a rope tied to his waist dragging a tire.

He transformed himself from one of the slowest guys in the school, to one of the fastest in the state of Georgia by the 9th grade.

During an interview with Jim Rome, Herschel was asked when was the last day he missed a workout? He replied “NEVER.”

Sometimes, our mess becomes our message. Mental Toughness means doing what others aren’t willing to do.
Rob Bell revised slide3Dr. 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 .

don’t question your mental toughness


 

There is “no question” about it. Did this cliche’ emerge in sports? I’m not sure, it’s just where I hear it most often.

What I’ll hear from competitors is how often they question themselves. “how did I do that?” “what are you doing?” “why am I out here today?” ” What are YOU DOING!?” 

Mental toughness doesn’t ask questions. I don’t hear an athlete playing well, ask themselves “how are you playing so well?”  “How are you so awesome?!” 

Questions during competition emerge after mistakes and they make sense, but they are rhetorical, and they aren’t answered. All they do is lead to more questions or merely go unanswered.

If you want to become more mentally strong then do this instead!

Don’t question your own mental toughness!

Things will go bad, and we aren’t going to always play our best, so we will need to make adjustments. But, questions don’t lead to many positive adjustments, just more questions.

So, we need to give ourselves instructions about what to do NEXT.

Try statements instead.

We are either listening to ourselves or telling ourselves.

“Okay, next play,” “wow, that wasn’t the best,” “stay aggressive,” “find a way.” 

These statements can even be motivational, but I’ve found that the best make slight instructional adjustments.   We don’t need questions about ourselves or our play, we just need to develop a habit of telling  ourselves what to do next.


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