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. 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 email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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
I’m a husband and father of two wonderful kids. I’m an Ironman, and endurance athlete, and I PLAY. Golf, swim, ski, run, ping-pong and chess. I speak & train with teams, organizations, and coaches on mental toughness.