Are you lead? Or do you lead? Two very important questions for people, and especially coaches and athletes, to ask themselves. At first you may consider a response as it relates to others in a group or on a team. But doesn’t the real answer to these questions come from within? Do you allow your mind to control your body? The emotion of the moment to dictate your body language? The mind to develop a perceived outcome before it even occurs?

We can improve how we prepare our minds for work, school, family interactions, practices, and games. There is no question we can all do a better job of improving our relationships through our verbal and non-verbal communication. Please remember though that the person who talks to you the most is you! You need to consider the words you use, the power you give yourself, and your ability to replace a negative thought with a positive one. Isn’t that what mental toughness is?

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Many of us grew up in an athletic environment where physical stress and enduring tough conditioning and/or practices is what was supposed to make us mentally tough. Over the years of coaching nearly every single day for over two decades, I know that the physical stress we were put through wasn’t what made us tough, it only demonstrated it. The words we put in our own heads, and shared with our teammates, during those grueling sessions were what built us as athletes and ultimately as people and future leaders.

The next logical question then would be, “Do we need these physical challenges to develop the mind and spirit?” I am not quite sure. Many people, athletes included, demonstrate mental toughness in many ways. We all have our own story and how we use the successes, struggles, and failures along the way to continue to motivate us to achieve greatness is often an excellent indication of mental toughness. An injury, a bad pass, a loss even can all lead to a better future self. How you allow it to impact you is what determines your expected greatness.

Coaches, athletes, and parents please consider this message… The next time you watch a game live or on film, whether it is your team or not, do not get caught up in the score, the big plays, or the emotion of the game. Evaluate the team’s sideline and/or bench interactions throughout the entire game. Grade each coach and player on body language. Count high fives during times when there is obvious success and unfortunate critical errors. Then ask yourself if they are leading or being lead as a team and as individuals.

Stuart Singer does an excellent job of helping young athletes, coaches, and teams with their mindset development. He is a true coach of his craft. Watch, listen, and learn with this short video below.

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