Long-time readers of this blog know that mental toughness, by whatever term you give it (grit, resilience, etc.), is something I’ve written about at in a few different ways. The mile run for volleyball players, in part, takes on the idea that such things have any kind of useful mental toughness component. Linking mental toughness to fitness and fatigue, I think, provides an important perspective of the subject. You can also toss in my posts on yelling and away from motivation. There’s also the one about punishment.

Then there are posts on how to help players develop the kind of skill set they need (and mental toughness is most certainly a skill set). There are a couple ways to develop mental toughness, mental fatigue and focus training, creating pressure in practice, and the more specific creating service pressure in practice.

An interesting article from the realm of running (though it speaks to multiple sports) brings this all together. It’s titled How to Build Tough Teams. The quick summary is that most of the stuff we think of as developing mental toughness doesn’t. In fact, often it works in the opposite direction. Even the military, where a lot of those methods originated, doesn’t use them anymore.

Related to that, here’s an interesting quote from the article:

We’ve been copying the 1940s version of the military, neglecting that the modern US military is the country’s largest employer of sports psychologists, with every branch having a pathway towards developing mental skills training in the classroom.

There’s a fair amount to go through in the article. It even brings in parenting and workplace elements. That being the case, I’ll leave you to give it a read rather then delve too far in.

I do want to bring up part of the takeaway, however. That’s what does seem to work. The author says you need three elements to encourage mental toughness. They are autonomy, belonging, and competency. To put it another way, we want to combine being demanding with caring and responsiveness.

Definitely give the article a read, or maybe just jump to the book it’s derived from Do Hard Things,

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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