KMJQ Featured Video
Super Bowl LI Previews

Source: Tim Warner / Getty

Mental Toughness is a Key to Success

If you watched  Super Bowl LIII, you witnessed mental toughness in action. There is no doubt that players in all sports can be mentally tough.  They must be in order to do the work that they do. Now, the premise behind mental toughness is not easy to explain. However, when you see it, you know it and you come to understand how and why athletes tend to have it.  

Yet, some of the best athletes in the world do not always have mental toughness, and more still never have it. Whether one is playing in the majors or in the minors, players don’t always have mental toughness.  And many players who do have mental toughness don’t even make it to the major league. That’s because having an ability has little to do with mental toughness.  

Some players don’t even have a clue what it means to be mentally tough. Those players tend to shirk responsibility or simply hide when they are under real pressure. They are able to do their jobs when they have nothing to lose, but if the game gets tough, or they are facing a tough competitor, they tend to fail. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that too many times in H-Town. But, we have also seen it among players in the game of life, and in the workplace.

There are times when average-skilled players are mentally tough and do their jobs in a manner that surprises everyone. The NBA player who on one occasion scores 40-50 points. The NFL player who made an amazing defensive play that nobody saw coming and was able to stop the movement of the ball to win the game. The MLB player whose important bunt scored a run and helped drive momentum for the team. Despite average skills, these players had the ability to perform under great pressure. For them, the more pressure they had, the better they performed.

One thing that can be said about mental toughness is that it is not a DNA trait. Rather, it’s something that we develop over time. We are exposed to it in many different situations and conditions. If one is mentally tough as an adult, it means the experiences began at an earlier age.

This fact tells us that parents, and other caregivers, have a large role in the development of mental toughness training. Even after they demonstrate that they have what it takes, parents must continue to help them to maintain their gains. This includes placing them in an educational system that has classroom rules and high expectations. Additionally, they must have fair, but tough, teachers and coaches. Parents and caregivers must make certain that the student is placed in an environment with a positive mindset so that the child mentally develops, even if they don’t become an athlete. Such a positive mindset and mental toughness are elements for success in any area of life.

Mental development is just one of the many reasons a child should be involved in some sort of organized extracurricular activity beginning at an early age. Organized events such as gymnastics, karate, music, ballet, scouts, youth sports, church-sponsored child and youth activities are great for developing character.  These activities can be the foundation that will give them structure and discipline, and help them to grow mentally.

Keep in mind that it takes time, patience and preparation to instill the mental toughness character trait. The development of both mental toughness and leadership skills is one of the reasons athletes must get involved in the right training program by age 14 or 15. The right training program helps to build up their strength, speed, and power, but it also helps in the development of mental toughness.

Developing mental toughness and leadership skills may not necessarily develop an athlete that becomes a Super Bowl winner, but it will develop a self-reliant individual who will have the capacity to succeed in most endeavors and have a success-full life.   

* J Thomas Smith is the host of “Sunday Morning Live” on KMJQ/Majic 102.1 (9-11 am). He is an attorneyauthorkeynote speakerand mental health consultant. Your comments are welcome: Follow on Twitter @drjtsmith102