change in 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- 

“If you are a coach, you are paid to read.” That’s what Tim Robbins taught me, I believed him, so I tried to abide. I hammered more audiobooks this year than every before as well.

Here are my top 5 books from 2015 (in no particular order).

Click on any book image to learn more…

This book was outstanding. He interviewed and embedded the stories and strategies of the greatest financial minds. We immediately started implementing two techniques that he outlined in the book and it saved us a few thousand dollars, not bad.
James Altucher has become a go-to resource for me.  This book outlined strategies for wealth (a trend from me this year?), but how and why to choose yourself. Ten ideas a day, insight into your 401k, why the house always wins are some cool concepts.

Chip & Dan heath also wrote the awesome books Switch and Made to Stick. These books are up there along with Malcom Gladwell’s.  Decisive delved into how and why we make certain decisions and how to counter-balance our own intuition with making smarter decisions in almost every circumstance.
I did NOT think I would like this book. I always have my guard up when it comes to books about persuasion techniques. However, all I could think of while reading this books is how NFL scouts and college coaches “miss” on players. A very enlightening book!

As you can see, I’m not a fiction guy at all. I think the truth is much more entertaining. The amount of research that went into this book was amazing. The journey of the 1936 crew that transformed the sport of rowing. Epic stories of mental toughness and overcoming adversity.

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 our most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their 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   

hate koala bears

Why I Hate Koala Bears

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. Koalas 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 diarrhea. (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 still fit through almost any size 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 our 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   

why I quit drinking

Why I Quit Drinking

My son has me under his thumb. It was always my daughter before. Funny thing about boys is how much they emulate their daddy. I love coffee, so he loved coffee. I would have a pint in the evening and so would he (okay, he’d have a sip).

He was three. It was funny.

But I noticed something scary. He wanted another sip and another and another. Alcoholism runs rampant in my family and I could already tell he had the sickness.

My grandfather actually has the second longest living sobriety date of 54 years in the U.S. It was confirmed at the national convention.

When I was younger, I wasn’t an alcoholic. I mean I only fell off of a cliff and was involved in a drunk driving accident during college in the same year. Some people said I was lucky, some said I was very unlucky. Some said I was meant for much more in life.

The tough part was that it had cost me playing baseball in college. I could have hurt someone else, and I never wanted that, but I didn’t think about those things.

After those mistakes, I had to attend all the alcohol classes, AA meetings, perform 100 hours of community service, and meet regularly with a probation officer. The probation officer would give me a breathalyzer every time I would show up. I always wondered, “Who in the hell would show up drunk when they had to give a breathalyzer?” She said, “You’d be shocked.”  It still wasn’t why I quit drinking. 

I had a sheet of paper that needed to be signed to confirm my attendance at all of the AA meetings. I learned, “Hey this is anonymous”! I just had people at dorms sign the sheet instead of going to the meetings. I remembered in those meetings thinking that these people were messed up, I wasn’t that bad. I focused on the differences between us, rather than the similarities.

Even after all of that for many years, I still drank. I just managed to control my drinking, so I thought…I never liked liquor, I was a 2 or 3 pint man, well, most of the time. I simply loved having fun and drinking beer was just a part of it.  Games, concerts, parties, BBQ’s, at the beach, after golf, during golf, at dinner, with friends, at the movies, hanging out, writing, chess, after runs, were all great times to have a cold one.

After my kids were born, I actually started to look forward to a craft pint in the evenings to unwind. It occupied my mind about wanting a beer.

I actually always admired people who didn’t drink.

People that had issues with drinking and no longer drank. I always thought that those who never drank were the lucky one’s.  I actually wanted to be the person who didn’t need to have a drink. That is my beautiful wife, take or leave it, no problem.

BUT, I’m an all or nothing guy. That’s why I quit drinking!

If I have one, I’m gonna have two.  A saying that resonated with me “One is too many and 10 is never enough.” The problem wasn’t the fourth or fifth drink, it was THE FIRST. The only path for me was not having one. That’s why I quit drinking.

It’s tough because it still looks appealing, but it forces me to remember my why, my gratitude list, my role as a father, and the benefits. That’s mental toughness. For example, we went to a wedding last week and the ride home with my kids was incredible, we blasted the music and sang aloud.  Before quitting, I wouldn’t have driven home.

There is a saying that if you want “To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” 

I know my goals and I have never once written down drinking as part of the plan. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, It took me a long time to realize that sacrificing short-term gratification for long-term and big picture satisfaction is best for me. And this is just one part of my life.

I even became fearful writing this and thought, “what-if” I go out tonight and drink?

Wouldn’t I be a fraud and a failure? Just in case I mess up, maybe its best not to write this post. We are all going to mess up, but it’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback. When we mess up, we just start over, but I’m going to try to not let fear win. Taking things one day, one moment, at a time is what it takes for success in anything.

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-

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

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

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:

-Click Here to Watch BONUS Video-

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- 


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.