We believe that mental toughness is the ability to focus through fatigue or adversity. At every practice, we incorporate activities and/or challenges that foster mental toughness. Conditioning benchmarks, drills with standards of excellence, and comfort with chaos are some of the ways in which we build mentally tough players.
A timed mile is a conditioning benchmark that forces each player to “gut check” before he/she crosses the finish line. We set individual goal times based on position, ability, and stature. Yes a timed mile is a different energy system generally required for basketball players, but we believe in the positive tradeoff of developing mental toughness.
Drills with standards of excellence will also cultivate mental toughness. Take any one of your favorite team full-court shooting drills, and do it for time and efficiency (certain amount of makes). To further elevate the mental toughness meter do the drills for a carrot or consequence. A carrot might be that the next rebounding drill is your team’s choice, and the consequence might be a 30 second plank for the entire team.
Comfort with chaos is yet another way to build mentally tough players. For example, having your team play with an under-inflated ball or shoot pressure free throws with obnoxious distractions will further build both focus and mental resolve. Another chaos avenue is to create unfavorable circumstances during your 5on5 situations, like dimming the lights or inconsistently officiating your team’s play. We often tell our players: “you need to win by 10 to win by one on the road.” Exposing your team to adverse circumstances during scrimmage situations is one of the best ways to be successful on the road.
If developing mentally tough players is your objective, then simply praise and reward your team for acts of mental toughness. Coaches: you are what you emphasize.