Character & Mental Toughness- Loose Balls

Great natural talent tends to get you and your organization out of the losers bracket and into the winner’s bracket.

This holds true whether it be in a classroom, on a field, in the studio, or at the office.

Natural talent tends to be obvious, and therefore easy to target and recruit.

But what happens when a person recognizes they or their organization lack great talent or lack the talent of their competition?

Will this exclude the person or organization from the winners bracket?

Not necessarily.

We have all seen those with great talent fail because of their lack of character or mental toughness. In short the talented team member does not always act in a way that will maximize their talent. Sometimes they seldom do.

Conversely, those with average talent can do tremendous things with well developed character and mental toughness.

Those in leadership roles spend endless time training themselves and those they lead in skills related to their given area. In short they try to get their people better in their field; whether it be football, algebra or sales.

These leaders spend a great deal of time getting people better at their skills, but how much time and thought do these leaders spend on getting their people to be better people?

Knowing how to execute a particular skill is vital, but not more important than the character and mental toughness of the person being asked to execute it.

As an example, I will refer to a loose ball which is common in team sports. Coaches know that a loose ball is extremely important. Not only can gaining possession result in scoring, it can also result in eliminating an opponents opportunity to score.

One loose ball can make a substantial difference between winning and losing. In many sports, loose ball situations occur many times a game.

In lacrosse we spend a great deal of time on scooping loose balls. A player will literally scoop hundreds of ground balls within only the first few weeks of practice. By then the player knows full well how to scoop a ground ball.

But will he do it in a game?

In order to scoop a ball in a game, a player must have the speed to beat his opponent to the loose ball. He must have the strength to fight off off the opponent once at the loose ball.

Character & Mental Toughness in the Physical Component

Some are naturally gifted when it comes to speed and strength. But every coach knows that speed and strength can be developed through strength training. Long before that loose ball instance in the game, character and mental toughness have come into play. Has the player had the character to do the preliminary weight room training and exhibited the mental toughness to train consistently?

The coach has instructed his player on how to gain possession of the loose ball, but has the coach instructed his player on the character and mental toughness needed to lift consistently so that he can get to that ball and then gain possession of it once he arrives?

Flexibility is an important component in speed development. Has the player exhibited character during the pre-practice and pre-game stretching routines?

The coach has instructed his player on how to scoop the ground ball, but has the coach instructed his player on the character and mental toughness needed to stretch consistently?

These examples only illustrate the need for character and mental toughness as it relates to physical ability, but the physical component is only part of the ability needed in order to get that loose ball.

Character & Mental Toughness in the Mental Component

Will the player even go get the ball?

Maybe he believes that he is “too good” to get the ball. Maybe he feels his ability to score goals is so great that he shouldn’t be bothered to get that ground ball. Maybe he feels that is the realm of less talented players.

Has the coach taught the player humility? Or will the coach wait for the instance when humility was absent and the team lost as a result?

Maybe the player doesn’t care about the loose ball. Maybe he doesn’t believe it to be important to his success or the success of his team. Has the coach taught the player to care about his team as well as his individual performance?

The coach has certainly taught his team how to work together in order to get the loose ball. But maybe the player is unwilling to sacrifice the effort and pain to get it. This will certainly not go unnoticed by the team. Has the coach instructed his player about the less obvious aspects of teamwork?

Maybe the player does not recognize the effort needed to win. He feels as though he has practiced and played hard enough. Has the coach instructed his player about how to give more than enough effort?

Maybe the player is afraid to get the ball. Huge collisions take place in loose ball situations. A player can get hurt or injured. Maybe the player feels he will miss the ground ball and that his teammates or coaches will be bitter for his failure. Has the coach instructed his player about courage?

Maybe the player lacks initiative. Maybe the player fails to act when he recognizes a need, hoping his lack of initiative will go unnoticed or will not matter. Has the coach taught his player how to take initiative?

What if a player is undisciplined? What if he fails to get the ball as he was coached to do or worse gets a penalty for being overly aggressive and making contact in a manner against the rules? Has the coach instructed his players on discipline?

What if the player has gone after previous loose balls and come up short? He may not want to try and fail again. Has the coach instructed his players about perseverance?

The player might not be committed to getting loose balls. Maybe he gets them sometimes, but only when it might be easy for him or he is feeling up to it. Has the coach instructed his player about commitment?

Does the player sell out for each loose ball, in every instance, in practices and games setting a positive example for his teammates? Will the player call out another player if he sees his teammate not selling out for a ground ball? Has the coach instructed his player about leadership?

Maybe the player isn’t even aware of the importance of each loose ball. Maybe he doesn’t recognize the opportunities for failure and success the loose ball represents. Maybe the player fails to recognize all of the instances where he wins or loses each day. Has the coach instructed his player on the merits of awareness?

Will the player get the loose ball whether or not he is hurting or fatigued, or in a key high pressured moment of the game? Has the coach instructed his team about mental toughness?

These are but a few of the endless situations where character and mental toughness can make a difference in the outcome of a contest. Yet, seldom do coaches spend much time outside of practice, much less time during the off-season, discussing character and mental toughness with their team.

Did the coach have a discussion, pass on a link, or make copies of a handout to share on any or all of these areas?

If you don’t have great talent, you can lift your vision and discover great character & mental toughness and how to develop it within your organization. Don’t quit because you don’t think you’re team is good enough. Don’t wait for your great character to appear. Don’t just hope it shows up. It will be too late. Don’t wait to fail so you can figure out how to succeed. Study how to win each day and share every example you can find with the people you lead.

A great leader, a great teacher, or coach or manager or preacher or administrator knows their business, but that is only a portion of success. They have to know people. And they have to be able to teach those people how to win. That means teaching them about character & mental toughness.

Do you give your people a handout or show them video examples of the type of character you expect of them or do you just hope for the best and then react to the worst? Do you dig deeper into the issues, finding examples from books or online articles or youtube videos to share with them? Do you do this consistently?

Your program needs a solid foundation in order to grow. It will only rise in accordance with the strength of the foundation that supports it.

The most important skill you can teach you team is how to win.

Have you done all you can to teach those you lead about character and mental toughness? If not, get after it before your loose ball becomes your lose ball.

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About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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