Mental toughness is a measure of an individual’s resilience and confidence. Mental toughness translates to success in education, sport, workplace, and well, basically life. If you Google mental toughness you will find all manner of articles describing mental toughness; the how to cultivate/develop, the whys you want to be, the elements of it, the psychology behind it and the habits of people with remarkable mental toughness. The idea that mental toughness separates the superstars from the merely good is a compelling one – after all if we get to choose between superstar or just good, which one are we going to pick? The inner attitude that allows someone to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence and fortitude is one most parents I know wish to impart on their children.
We’ve been talking a lot about mental toughness in our house recently. Our oldest son, at the ripe old age of almost 10, is playing U11 travel soccer in a very competitive league, and he is one of four boys participating in specialized Keeper (or Goalie if you prefer) training. This means part of every 60-minute match he puts on his keeper jersey and gloves marches out to goal and becomes the very last line of defense in our 9v9 games. He is also the smallest player on our team – a fact firmly in his own mind.
Regardless of your level of soccer play, goals will be scored on Keepers of all manner of talent, but the ability to shake off one missed save and go for the next can be a lot for a nine-year-old. The desire we all have compelling us to wallow even momentarily in an error exists no matter our age. Sports are all about capitalizing on errors by the defense when you are the offense – football, hockey, baseball, basketball, you name the competitive sport all share it. Likewise, it’s tough to be the kid who makes the error. It’s tough to be the last line of defense. It’s also very hard to trust in your teammates to do their job after an error has been made however, trust is a requirement in a team sport.
So, we’ve been talking a lot about mental toughness – about not panicking and not pouting, ever, for any reason. We’ve been watching our #1 learn and grow in his own mental toughness, learning his own fortitude, and building (and breaking down sometimes) his own confidence.
I never played competitive sports growing up but as I watch, learn, and grow alongside my son, I can see and feel what an incredible experience this is for the both of us. I work on my mental toughness every day ,and it helps me with my running and my living. I watch my eldest work on his mental toughness every day too, and I am awed and inspired by the person and the player he is becoming.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
– Mahatma Gandhi (Political and Spiritual Leader)