Training

Developing Mental Toughness, Part 2


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This is part 2 of a three-part series.  If you’re just tuning in, or if you’d like a refresher, here is Part 1

3) What would a workout to build mental toughness look like?

Coach Scott Salwasser of Cal Golden Bears: I don’t necessarily believe in “toughness” workouts. To me, the best sign of mental toughness is showing up and competing and EXECUTING, every single day, to the best of your abilities, no matter how you feel that day, or what may be taking place off the field.

Coach Donnell Boucher of The Citadel Bulldogs: I don’t do “Mental Toughness Workouts.”  Our culture is what builds that skill.  Being held accountable at practice/training, being expected to reach your potential, being forced to think critically on the spot, being made aware of potential pitfalls, training hard and seeing progress … all these things build the inner trust required to experience actual confidence.  “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Our daily operation/standard is the culture, and a “mental toughness workout” would be the strategy.  To help BUILD and reinforce mental toughness, one way is to place the athletes in appropriate situations and set them up for success in the face of adversity.  This is a balancing act of gray, marrying the art and science.  The key point is; simply trashing your teams physically every day isn’t going to build anything but a broke down group of confused people. This is dangerous territory for a coach: waving the banner of commitment over the heads of compliant young people is only a good thing IF THE PLAN IS RIGHT! That’s our job: Put the right plan in place.  Players gotta play, and coaches gotta coach.  A coach should increase all facets of performance through evidence-based/led programming and situational flexibility.  Challenging activities that encourage the athletes to reach for more are usually a plus. Such activities deal with comfort zones.  They expose the athlete to unfamiliar, unexpectedness which, in turn, familiarizes them with the unknown; this, no doubt, enhances their ability to adapt and solve problems – other attributes of a mentally tough person.  However, I want to be clear on one thing: Building this skill set is NOT limited to wild circuits or competitions.  That is where I think people make a mistake.  Sudden changes, urgency, competition, intense focus are all things that can be built into the daily operation in many ways.  Considering how important they are, we’ve decided to do just that and implement them always.

Coach Keith Caton: “Mental toughness” and team-building workouts should be a staple in your program.  It should start before the team even enters the building.  It starts with the team holding each other accountable to be on time and train with passion and intensity.  It then goes from the warm-up all the way to the cool-down at the end of the session.  We should always be placing athletes in tough situations during training to help them grow as leaders.  This can be as simple as changing the order of the exercises to playing really loud music.  Do whatever it takes to make them have to focus and communicate.

4) Team-building workouts: How do they usually look?

Coach Scott Salwasser: Putting athletes in situations where their singular excellence alone will not be enough to guarantee success, and/or where they have to wait for/rely on other teammates to complete a task/drill.

Coach Donnell Boucher: Another fluffy phrase: “Team building.” Personally, I hope that our team is being “built” every single time we’re together.  I guess some of the things we do: paintball, movie trips, competitions, speed ball, guest speakers, etc., could fall into this category?  But to me, that’s just good business in the industry of teaching, building, and leading.

Coach Keith Caton: The great thing about training college athletes is that every sport has a component of a team sport.  Even if you compete by yourself, you still can gain points for your team: track and field and wrestling.  You might have to tailor the individual’s workouts, but you can always have a team component to training.  That can be accomplished in the warm-up, a finisher at the end of the workout, having accountability partners, etc.


 

Scott Salwasser has worked in the strength and conditioning field for 12 years at the private, collegiate, and NFL levels. He is currently the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at The University of California-Berkeley as well as an accomplished weightlifting competitor.

Donnell Boucher is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. In his 7 years in this position, Boucher has overseen all of the Bulldogs’ varsity athletic teams.

Keith Caton is the Director of Football for Athletic Performance for the Baylor Bears, a team regarded by many to be the most athletic in all of college football. Coach Caton is also an elite level raw powerlifter in the 242 class.

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