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Kenyan runnersKenyan runners dominate the world in competitive distance running. Many run barefoot, but they’ll tell you their personal best time right along with their name. With almost half of the entire population in poverty, if someone in a nearby village wins a small half-marathon and a check for $2,500 that is four times the yearly median income. In Kenya, the will to escape is channeled into running. The motivation to “make it” is a direct result from the environment.

The Olympic and world champions of the sport in Kenya train along side those merely trying to break through. These runners, regardless of skill, motivate one another to keep going, recognizing with painful clarity just how fleeting success can be.

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Since 1972, Cuba has won 32 Olympic Gold medals in boxing, more than any other country, despite the country’s boycott of the 1980 & 1984 games. However, the boxers status goes only as far as the amateur ranks. Fidel Castro banned professional boxing in the 1960s.

A Cuban boxer desiring to turn professional must defect, leaving everything and everybody behind including the motivational structure. It is a decision filled with torment, especially in the heavily family-oriented Cuban culture. Dyosbelis Hurtado, who defected in 1994, stated, “It was the toughest decision I’ve ever made because of my family. My mama, papa and seven brothers are still in Cuba. I don’t know how many more years will pass before I see them.”

“[You] can do it, so can I”

We need models to show us how they did it, coaches to teach us how to do it, and others around us trying to do it as well.

The same motivational structure exists for Brazilian soccer, running groups, AdvoCare,® CrossFit,® masters swimming clubs, Jenny Craig,® or Alcoholics Anonymous.® These groups all rely on each other as “how-to” models and coaches.

We are connected to others. We need models in our lives to show us how things are done and others to continually raise the bar for us. It is the external motivation that connects….Will your Hinge connect? Click here to subscribe to my mailing list

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   

 mentality

The Toxic Mentality

I have bad days, I get down.

I lose belief and I’ll feel like I am not good enough. I also have days where I do well, but for many reasons, I just didn’t perform up to my own standards.

I don’t like feeling like this way, so what occurs when I get like this however is I develop the toxic “at least” mentality.

“AT LEAST” I ran today, “AT LEAST” I am not as slow as that person, “AT LEAST” I showed up, “AT LEAST” we played well.

What I am really saying to myself is “at least” I am not a loser… But, I am also saying, I am not a winner…The “at least” mental state is dangerous and systemic. Once it enters our vocabulary either within ourselves or our team, it can easily seep into our core beliefs.

The “at least” attitude means we chose to make an excuse. 

Settling was okay. Mediocre wasn’t all that bad.

Going through the motions became an option. We chose to live inside the comfort zone. I basically valued my self worth as a “maybe” rather than a “yes.”

The toughest part of winning is the will to prepare.  Committing  to everything that is needed to win, means developing a winner’s mindset as opposed to an “at least” mind-set.  We must instill the belief that we deserve what we are going to achieve because of our preparation, because at no point did we settle.

However, what lacks is the belief…We develop an “at least” mentality because we wanted, we just weren’t willing… We weren’t really willing to sacrifice, willing to develop the needed focus, or willing to work on our weaknesses. We looked around us and said “I’m not all that bad.” Preparation and motivation involves the belief in oneself and that our goal or vision can be reached! Setbacks, adversity, and struggle are going to happen, but it is how we overcome these obstacles.

The bottom line is that losing happens way more than winning ever does. There is always a runner-up finish, a 2nd place team, and second best in show. The question must be asked,  is “at least” mental state an acceptable option for 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 book on Mental Toughness- 50 Ways to Win: pro Football’s Hinge Moments  

The Hinge connects who we are with who we become. It is the one moment, event, or person that makes the difference in our lives…

Readers-DigestAs a teenager, my grandmother used to give me the awesome gift of, wait for it, Reader’s Digest…As a fifteen year-old, Reader’s Digest really didn’t fit my needs. However, it did become great bathroom material and I would read it while on the porcelain throne. Well, within Reader’s Digest, I once read a story about the “runner’s high,” the physiological and psychological effect that runners would sometimes encounter during long runs. It was like “being in the zone.” The study looked at how the personalities of those running long distances may transfer into other areas of their lives…. Fast-forward eight years to the end of college; I had to choose a research project in my advanced Psychology class to graduate. I immediately remembered the Runner’s High story in Reader’s Digest and replicated the same study, with no further thought.

I knew early on that Sport Psychology would become my chosen path in life, so I applied to Temple University’s graduate school, although I never really applied myself in undergrad until my junior year, I was a hinge candidate at best.

The in-person interview went surprisingly well and, in fact, the Temple University professor repeatedly probed at length my little research project on the Runner’s High. I was actually accepted and even received a graduate assistantship that paid for school. Turns out, my professor, Dr. Michael Sachs, was the one who coined the phrase, Runner’s High…

The Hinge….

If it weren’t for my grandmother supplying me with Reader’s Digest subscriptions as a teenager, I would not have been accepted into Temple University’s graduate program, nor met my wife, nor continued on to Graduate work at The University of Tennessee, nor caddied on the PGA Tour, or work with so many gifted athletes. My story and this story would have been different. Things happened in my life for a reason.

Who or what have been hinges in your life?  Share your Hinge moment here. 

docAuthor: Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach and the author of his 2nd book- The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness It is on pre-order and will be out in September.

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 www.drrobbell.com and you can find him on Twitter @drrobbell

The tour caddy is the closest thing to being a sideline head coach, except the roles are  different. Whereas the head coach has the final call, gets criticized, and interviewed; the player makes the decisions. Caddying reveals amazing insight into the game that no one else can get, and caddies save a professional golfer, in my opinion, about one shot a round.

“Keep up, clean up & shut up”

Caddying is all about timing. Just like being a good spouse; the best have an awareness of when they CAN  speak up and when to SHUT UP.  Our spouses {players} want us to know what they are thinking and even anticipate a response before a question is asked. Since reading minds is tougher than reading greens, it comes down to the strength of the relationship.

“There is a reason why their name is on the bag”

A caddy never hits a shot, but he/she is still only as good as their player. Two of the absolute best that I know are Paul Tesori and Joe Skovron. They have played golf at the highest level, have caddied for winners on tour, and prepare better than anyone else.

A great caddy is also like a sponsor in A.A. It is built upon a mutual relationship of trust and 100% confidentiality. The best aren’t afraid of having a heart to heart if their player is not preparing the right way, abandoning game plans, not committing to shots, or getting in their own way. Most importantly, a great caddy isn’t afraid to make mistakes.

“We shot 66, he shot 74”

Caddying is easy when they are playing well and the bags are never heavy after shooting a 66, but they can get weighty with a 74. In fact, the toughest part of looping is removing oneself from the actual score and not getting caught up in what the player is doing. The player himself sometimes rides an emotional roller coaster, so keys for a caddy is staying positive, calm, in-control, and un-emotional at all times.

“Every shot counts”

The difference in prize money between the Nationwide and PGA tour is vast. Thus, at the end of every season, the difference between who keeps his card at 125th on the money list and loses it at 126th, will come down to basically a few thousand dollars, even though they will both will have made over $600,000.

I was reminded of the importance of every shot, when once my player 3-putted the last hole of a PGA tournament, which cost him a top-25 finish and $21,000. Ten percent of that amount, (my cut) is more than I have ever gambled in my life.

If you care to read about my worst experience as a caddy and how I caused a two-shot penalty, check out the book: Mental Toughness Training for Golf: Start Strong Finish Strong

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