Mental Toughness

Mental Toughness

Runners need mental toughness to finish the race. It is the voice during the parts of the course that no one is cheering at that motivates you to keep running fast.

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Running requires a few key components: a pair of running shoes, daily practice, and mental toughness. Although physical attributes as speed and power are important to winning, mental toughness may play just as equal or maybe a more important role. Mental toughness is widely used across multiple sports but it is one of the least understood terms. Some define mental toughness as the ability to cope with or handle pressure, stress, and adversity, others define it as an ability to overcome or rebound from failures.

As coaches stress the importance of mental toughness, the concept is engraved into a runner's mind. During a race, it can be defeating to see other runners run past, tiring as the race progresses, and very painful as the soreness and strain starts to kick in. Having positive thoughts and feelings will lead to better performance and confidence to keep running. Conversely, negative thoughts will lead to negative feelings and ragged runs.

In fact, usually athletes pace themselves by feel. Emotions during a race can be divided into two layers: how the athlete feels and how the athlete feels about how they feel. The first layer is completely physiological and affected by the pain whereas the latter is emotional. However, it is the athlete's conscious decision to either perceive these emotions positively or negatively. It is difficult to be happy about racing a dreadfully long 5k through blazing hot weather conditions and throbbing pain but the mental toughness plays a role. These sensations of fatigue are thoughts of the brain trying to force you to slow down and decrease the pain.

For any given level of discomfort, an athlete can either have a good or a bad attitude. However, when they have a positive attitude, they are less bothered and will most likely push harder during the race. Some people have the natural tendency to overlook the pain stimulus by acceptance, whereas others suppress these stimuli. The right attitude towards the race will use the energy efficiently to finish the race in a personal record. No one usually has a positive attitude towards running because it causes pain and stimulates a rush of emotions that tend to get the best of you. Our perception towards mental toughness recalls to our openness towards the idea.

At the starting line of my last cross country race, I began with an attitude that I was not going to do well because I felt like I was extremely sore and the weather was starting to warm up. Due to my past injuries earlier in the season, I did not expect much from myself; in fact, my only goal was to finish. Many of my teammates were worried about this race because none of them wanted me to push my limits and risk my health.

But, I still stepped to the starting line and then the race commenced. The first mile was fast and intense. The critical point of the race was coming up. When I reached the desolate sector of the course, I realized I was only halfway done and the harsh conditions were starting to agitate me. The sun seemed to be shining brighter and the pain in my legs was tearing me apart. At that point, I could have easily dropped out and called it a day. I remember thinking about the race as the last of my high school career and the outlet for me to let my summer's hard work pay off which made my perception change positively, pushing me through the second half of the race with a runner's high. I was able to finish with a new season record and top 20 in my race. After all the adversity I faced during the season with my medical conditions, my mental toughness strengthened me and finally yielded results that rewarded my hard work.

During a race or any form of exercise, chemicals are released by the brain and improve our mood and minimize our pain. These feelings of pleasure improve our attitude and perception towards running and motivates us to run faster. Runners need mental toughness to finish the race. It is the voice during the parts of the course that no one is cheering at that motivates you to keep running fast.

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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UFC 235: Titles, Debuts, And Redemption

UFC 235 Is Shaping Up To Be One Of The Most Anticipated Cards Of the Year

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As 2019 continues to unfold we are getting closer and closer to one of the biggest cards of the year on March 2nd at UFC 235 with #3 ranked Light-heavyweight Anthony "Lionheart" Smith getting a shot at the title when he faces arguably the greatest of all time the UFC Light-heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones. Since moving up to the Light-Heavyweight division Anthony Smith has been on a complete tear as he has finished 2 former champions in Rashard Evans and Mauricio Rua in devastating fashion. He also has a huge win over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. Since making his return to the Octagon and reclaiming his title when he finished Alexander Gustaffson via TKO at UFC 232 this will be Jones first title defense in 3 years.

The UFC Welterweight Champion "The Chosen One" Tyron Woodley will be in a fight where many expected him to be defending his title against the #1 ranked welterweight Colby Covington but that is not the case. Tyron will be taking on the #2 ranked "Nigerian Nightmare" Kamaru Usman in the Co-main Event as the champ is coming off of a dominant win over Darren Till at UFC 228 when he finished "The Gorilla" via D'arce choke in the 1st round. Kamaru Usman is also coming off of a huge win over former UFC Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos when he defeated him in a fantastic performance that earned him the Unanimous Decision victory,

All eyes were on the "Funky" Ben Askren at the UFC 235 Press Conference as he will be making his highly anticipated debut in the organization when he faces former UFC Welterweight champion "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler in a fight that will really test Ben Askren in his UFC Debut as Lawler has knockout power and wrestling. Ben Askren is undefeated in his mix martial artists and he is has been known as someone who has a ground game that can go toe to toe with current UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. He showcased his skills around the world as he is the former One and Bellator Welterweight Champion. "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler is coming off of a loss to Rafael dos Anjos and a serious injury that kept him out of action.

Another huge fight on the card will be #6 ranked Featherweight Jeremy Stephens defending his spot in the division against top prospect and upcoming #13 ranked Zabit Magomedsharipov. Stephens has been very dominant in the division despite his last loss against #1 ranked Jose Aldo and is hoping to derail this huge hype that is Zabit. Magomedsharipov is looking to break into the top 10 in the division if he can put on a dominant display and dismantle Jeremy Stephens.

Former UFC Bantamweight Champion #2 ranked Cody "No Love" Gardbrandt will make his return to the octagon as he hopes to put his last 2 losses against the current UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw behind him as he hopes to get back in the right direction to get his title back. Cody will be facing #8 ranked Pedro Munhoz as fireworks are expected to go off all night at the T-mobile Arena on March 2nd.

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