Mental toughness is more than just mental.

It’s also physical and emotional.  In order to be mentally tough on the ball field, you must know your talents and working to be in peak physical condition.  Your technical skills have to be sharp.  It is also important to recognize that the physical, emotional and mental sides of your self affect each other.  Mental toughness training allows players to tap into emotional and mental resources that keeps their play at its peak as often and consistently as possible.

Jim Loehr (1993) is a noted sport psychologist who has worked with many top athletes over the last twenty years.  He suggests the following definition for toughness: “Toughness is the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances”.  Loehr describes four emotional markers of mental toughness.

  1. Emotional Flexibility – The ability to handle different situations in a balanced or non-defensive manner.  Emotional flexibility also speaks to the skill of drawing on a wide range of positive emotions – humor, fighting spirit, pleasure.
  2. Emotional Responsiveness – You are emotionally engaged in the competitive situation, not withdrawn.
  3. Emotional Strength – The ability to handle great emotional force and  sustain your fighting spirit no matter what the circumstances.
  4. Emotional Resiliency – Being able to handle setbacks and recovering quickly from them.

Clint Zavaras, Slammers Owner and Former Major Leaguer cited John Wooden and stated,” Emotional resiliency ,or poise and self-control, are paramount to an athlete.”  One of the greatest coaches, John Wooden, so greatly admired this and believes it is fundamental to success. Coach Wooden stated, ” performance diminishes immediately when both are not present and without them how do we resist the temptations that pull us off course.”

What each meant is that a baseball player has to be able to handle everything that comes up in a game.  There will be days the umpires are bad, bad hops cause errors, a teammates may make a mistake, or the other tem may just be better. How we handle these in game set backs and recover quickly from them determine our measure as a truly good teammate and competitive player.

Like other aspects of mental toughness, these skills can be learned.  It is not something genetic.  For some players it comes more easily than for others.  In general, to play at the tournament level, you probably already have many of these skills.  However, for many players, there is often room for improvement.

By being mentally tough, you can bring all your talent and skill to the game consistently.  Being able to use your emotional life effectively will help you perform at your peak more consistently.