Friday, April 19, 2013


One of the questions I get in training with sports teams is "Can you make our players tougher and more physical?" My immediate thought is "Yes of Course," but the more I think about it the more uncertain I am. Physical of course but tough???

What makes a player tough? Is toughness necessarily a good thing or something that could hinder you in athletics. How does the situation you are in dictate your toughness and or ability to be tough. I'll illustrate and example.

A few years ago I was coaching a youth minor football team. It was our first year of being a team and we had many raw players who have never played football. I saw a team that didn't look tough or didn't know how to push themselves out of their comfort levels. So we began doing drills to see who would step up. Some of them did and some of them kind of hid behind others, as to be expected. But what I noticed more was toughness was directly related to a few key things: Pride, confidence, and attitude. When we would be losing games, at a certain point, many of the kids would go down with injury. Multiple times in the ladder parts of games. Not because they were physically hurt but because they were losing and their pride, confidence and moral was low. Interesting!!!

In college, I played many seasons with multiple shoulder seperations, broken ankles and fingers and multiple concussions. I played with others who were very similar to myself. But those are pains that we had to endure physically. Mentally that did not ever stop me. Nothing could keep us out of games. If we were losing, we would be still fighting back. The mentality was you can keep knocking us down but we'll continue to get up...Now sport has changed...For the better...If I knew then what I do now...

In today's sports world it is very different for amateur and professional athletes. I read recently that in the 6 years that the Chicago Bulls won their championships, Michael Jordan sat a total of 6 games over those years. 2 were for suspensions I believe. Now I watch sports and teams are resting their players in the weeks leading to playoffs to rest and recover.

So let's get back to our original question. Can you make players tough. I believe that you put them in situations and give them the opportunity to be tough. It's within each of us to fight or flight at any situation. Sport is the perfect setting for these opportunities. With structured training and practice, you can develop work ethic, drive, motivation, and passion. Which can lead to toughness. The situation is the game played. If an athlete has the drive, passion and work ethic to succeed then each opportunity/game/practice will improve confidence and make them tough. And by tough I mean a drive to be the best, to never back down, to play until the last whistle, and to give it everything you got. So yes you can make players more physical and yes you can teach toughness, at any level.

(Chris Spielman played Middle Linebacker with a broken neck. Tough??)

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