I came across an interesting article from running on the subject of mental toughness training. It relates to what I previously wrote about in terms of its link to fatigue. This time, though, the fatigue in focus is mental rather than physical.

It’s a longer piece, but I think worth the read.

Inducing mental fatigue for training purposes

The article starts off with the author sharing something he does before going on a training run. It’s a 60-minute long mental focus exercise intentionally designed to induce mental fatigue. He’s getting ready to run a marathon and this is meant to help replicate the latter-state mental challenges one faces running that distance.

Basically, what it comes down to is a link between how the athlete perceives things and their ability to put forward full effort.

Kevin Hambly once talked in an interview about how at Stanford they asked players to provide daily “toughness” ratings after practice. These were players’ subjective opinion on how difficult practice was that day. The staff used them collectively to manage workload over the course of the season.

The interesting thing about this mental fatigue research – at least to me – is it takes things a step back from what Hambly described. It draws a link between those player ratings and the mental aspect of their perception of difficulty. That then brings up questions of how much mental work happens in practice to induce that fatigue vs. what the players experienced in their day beforehand.

I wrote previously about how inducing mental fatigue in players is important. My focus then was on making sure you challenge players cognitively. This article, though, brings up an additional benefit. That is helping players get better at performing when fatigued this way.

Developing better, more sustained focus

One of the things I thought about while read this article was how it could relate to certain types of drills. There are some drills that can be quite repetitive for players and/or don’t require a lot of effort. They do, however, require focus because they demand good technical execution.

Think of a repetitive serving or passing or setting drill. You can also put strength and conditioning exercises in this category. Players who allow their focus to slip simply won’t get as much out of them as those who can stay locked in. And in the case of something like working in the weight room, lack of focus risks injury.

In theory at least, having players do some of the cognitive exercises the author talks about could improve player focus. That would be interesting to explore.

If you have any experience with this subject I’d love to hear from you about it.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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