Win Now: A Quest for Mental Toughness

One of my major interests in the field of sport psychology lies in the concept of mental toughness.  Mental toughness is fascinating to me because it is something all coaches want in athletes, all athletes want to have it, and few are able to give a concrete definition of what mental toughness actually is.  Even in doing research on the topic, there has been a great deal of dissension on what mental toughness is.  Although I plan on getting into the subject in greater detail in the future, today's blog is about what mental toughness ultimately comes down to in my opinion.

Mental toughness, to me, is the ability to "win now."  What I mean is that it is the ability to be completely invested and confident in the present moment and task at hand.  "Win now" is getting rid of all distractions, putting out of your mind past failures and successes, and eliminating the threat of any future implications.  It is both being the basketball player who is 2-13 but still wants to take the last shot and being the basketball player who is 7-7 but still takes shots within the natural flow of the offense.

A great example of having the ability to "win now" is Shane Victorino in game six of the 2013 ALCS.  Victorino was 2-23 in the series with 9 strikeouts when he came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Red Sox down 2-1 and the bases loaded.  Shane fell behind in the count 0-2 to start the at-bat and was not happy about the first pitch being called a strike.  What many hitters would have done in that situation is think about how poorly they've hit in the series, how they were behind 0-2, and how if they get out there their team may lose the game.  How many young hitters would have lost the at-bat after the first pitch?  Instead, Victorino was able to focus on that one pitch and hammered a hanging breaking ball for what proved to be the series-winning grand slam.  "The Flyin' Hawaiin" was able to "win now" and stands in Red Sox immortality because of doing so.

Personally, I know there were many times where I let previous at-bats have an effect on my current at-bat.  There were times where I'd have a bad first at-bat and take it with me the rest of the game.  Before I knew it, I was 0-4.  There were also times I would get a couple of hits early and have in the back of my mind, "Well, even if I get out here, I am still 2-3 on the day."  The result was a loss of the mentality that led to the two hits and losing an at-bat that I could never get back.  In my case, I let both positive and negative experiences have an effect on my ability to "win now."

My challenge to you is to "win now" in some type of situation this weekend.  If you are a hitter, challenge yourself to stay present in every pitch of every at-bat and to separate offense and defense.  If you are a pitcher, challenge yourself to do the same.  Don't allow one bad at-bat to ruin your weekend, and don't let a couple of good ones result in the giving away of at-bats.

Do you have a "win now" moment for me?  If so, I'd love to hear about it!  Please respond below or tweet it to me @Coach_Ehrlich.

Here is a link to the Victorino grand slam.  The quality is not great, but I like it because the video has the entire at-bat.
Shane Victorino's Grand Slam


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