Mental toughness is talked about in all walks of life, but wrestling puts higher demands on this trait than perhaps any other sport. The individual nature, sacrifice and physical demands of wrestling separate it from the rest.
But what is mental toughness and how do you achieve it?
I have examined this for years as a coach, in a quest to make it a teachable and tangible asset. It is easy to look at a wrestler and recognize good technique with the naked eye. You can prescribe technical drills, weight training programs and conditioning workouts to consciously develop your physical skills. But how exactly do you build mental toughness and how can you measure it?
I have many thoughts on this and have developed some tactics to measure and teach mental toughness, but I want to talk about one aspect in this article. The #1 indicator, in my mind, of mental strength is the ability to stay positive during the lowest of lows. Notice I didn’t say “happy” or “excited”. Individuals that keep their mind in a positive frame when things are not going their way excel at whatever they do.
In a wrestling match, you get taken down. Do you put your head down or look for the immediate escape or reversal?
If you don’t feel the best after weigh-ins or on game day do you under perform, dwell on the fact that you don’t feel 100% and use it as an excuse for failure?
You and your girlfriend have an argument at school. Do you feel sorry for yourself and have a poor practice or do you stay focused on your goals?
You are going to have to wrestle off a tough teammate next year to make the starting spot. Does this motivate you to work harder or do you decide to quit?
If you have your goals set on something worthwhile you must know there are going to be set backs. You need to be prepared to deal with them and keep your eyes on the prize. I guarantee you anyone that has achieved a significant goal has dealt with adversity and had to stay on course. History, and the halls of high schools all over the country, are littered with athletes that set goals of greatness only to be blown off course by the first stiff wind. The great ones, the ones you know about and hear about, plowed through adversity by staying positive at all times.