Instilling Mental Toughness in the Chicago Bulls

Mental Toughness

Becoming Mentally Tough

Can you coach a team, let alone an athlete to develop “mental toughness?”  When we think of teaching mental toughness, we conjure up images of football coaches driving their athletes during two-a-days in the heat of summer or basketball coaches running sprints at the end of practice until athletes are practically retch.  Developing mental toughness is more than pushing an athlete to their breaking point.  Mental toughness is an attitude, a mental approach to your game that is disciplined that produces consistent, high level performance regardless of the competitive circumstances.

Tom Thibodeau, head coach of the Chicago Bulls, is seeking to instill “mental toughness” in his 2013-14 Bulls’ team.  Last year’s squad was ousted in the playoffs by the Miami Heat 4-1 in the Conference Semifinals.  Thibodeau is trying to emulate the attitude of the past championship teams in Bulls’ history, “When you look at the championship teams, they have a lot of mental toughness.  I’ve studied the Jordan teams, when he was here. No one had more mental toughness than Michael and that’s what it takes to win.”

Thibodeau wants his team to be resilient, to be able to bounce back when faced with adversity, “Whatever it might be, you have to be ready to adapt and adapt quickly. That’s why it’s a team sport. So if one guy goes out, you expect the next guy to step in and get the job done, and I think that’s the mindset that you have to have.”

Thibodeau realizes the only way to develop mental toughness is through daily practice and thorough preparation, “I think to be successful in this league, you have to have a lot of mental toughness and it’s a physical league, and you’re going to get hit and there’s going to be soreness, and you have to get through all that stuff. I think the way you train and the way you prepare are important.

Mental toughness is an attitude, a learned tendency to evaluate things and perform in a consistent way in certain circumstances.  Attitudes are formed over time, so the development of mental toughness will require time, consistency and persistence.

How to Be Mentally Tough

  1. Work Hard – Ratchet up your work ethic and look for ways to challenge yourself physically and mentally.
  2. Stay Positive – The season is long and you will experience ups and downs.  Performance is enhanced when you have positive expectations about the future.
  3. Strong Focus – Play your game according to your specific skill set.
  4. Develop Resiliency – Commit to finding a way past all obstacles.
  5. Challenge Yourself – The only way to become tougher is to place yourself in increasingly tougher situations.  Create daily goals for yourself that stretch your abilities so you can reach for new levels of performance.

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