That is not the definition of mental toughness. We will attempt to define it here. I am sure athletes of all sports may exhibit mental toughness but baseball demands it of its players on a daily basis.
Before attempting to define it as it relates to baseball, we must ask the question, “Should youth players be asked to be ‘mentally tough’? The demands of the sport and the speed of the game increase as a player reaches each level, so mentally tough may not mean quite the same at age 10 as it does at age 18.
It may not mean the same but the game is still there and it is played the same way, with modifications. So with modification, youth players should and can develop this quality.
A wise and intelligent coach can help him.
I find that in my attempt to define mental toughness that I tend to form a list.
- Players must learn to be coachable. The many skill demands of baseball require that players learn to listen, adapt and adjust. “Troubled” young players often face an uphill battle in this area.
- The nature of the game requires a certain recognition; acceptance if you will that occasional failure is inevitable. There is maturity and toughness in that recognition.
- The ability to adapt and change will often result in initial failure. Dealing with that kind of failure requires an inner strength.
- Example: An alteration in a pitcher’s mechanics, a change in a hitter’s bat path will often initially lead to failure. The ones who can learn and accept that kind of challenge are the ones who advance.
- No excuses. Face the challenge and do not use an excuse when you fail. Coaches can do a lot of good by not allowing excuses to creep into their practices or games.
- (One of the most common displays of the lack of maturity is the throwing of equipment when a player fails. Coaches, don’t allow that to happen. )
- Desire to compete. Sounds easy when you say it. But it takes much more than paying it lip service. Will your players compete in tough situations as well as easy ones?
This may well be the core meaning when we talk about being mentally tough.
All of these admirable traits that are common in players who exhibit a quiet inner toughness can be fostered and assisted by the coach. We always talk about “teaching opportunities.” There are plenty of them in practices and games. Be alert to the possibility that you will be helping your players and contributing to their future.
Coach Tim Kafer