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Mental Toughness Is A Football Skill Set

Learning Center > Football > Mental Toughness Is A Football Skill Set

Mental Toughness Is A Football Skill Set

Mental toughness is simply a skill set that can be taught, developed, and continuously improved just like your physical game of football. Mental conditioning is strength and conditioning for the six inches between your ears that control the six feet below them. Having a mental conditioning system is essential to playing your best when it means the most, one play at a time. Mental conditioning will give you a skill set to be successful in football and, more importantly, successful in life.

"Mental is to physical as 4 is to 1."

Bobby Knight College Basketball Head Coach 902 wins, 3 national championships

I want to share with you three of the most important football mental toughness skills.

1. THE 90% TO 10% SHIFT

Whether or not coaches and athletes understand the complete significance of mental conditioning, most coaches and athletes I have worked with will agree that training for football games is 90% physical and 10% mental. They acknowledge that a noticeable shift occurs when kickoff rolls around. In the heat of competition they acknowledge that performance becomes 90% mental and 10% physical. This is called the 90%/10% shift to give athletes and coaches an illustrative taste of how valuable mental conditioning is when it is time to put the helmet and shoulder pads on and line it up.

The reality is that there should be no shift. Mental conditioning should be integrated into physical conditioning and every aspect of preparation. It should be 100% mental and physical conditioning combined, because one is never complete without the other.


Most people have heard the saying "You can do anything if you set your mind to it" but are skeptical of deeming it a universal truth. Well, I am one of those people who believe that if you truly desire something, why not set your mind to it and give everything you've got to achieve it? To make your dreams become a reality you must pursue your goals in an effective and realistic manner. This is why peak performers must understand and effectively utilize the three-step process to accomplishing anything, both in football and in life.

The three steps that give you the best chance to accomplish anything are these:

  • Make a commitment to your goal by writing it down and putting it where you can see it on a daily basis.
  • Make it public and share your goal with your teammates, friends, family, accountability partners and the people in your inner circle.
  • Work with a relentlessly positive energy on a daily basis to make it happen – the type of relentlessly positive energy that can only be found when you are pursuing something you are passionate about and have a reason why. So be very selective about your goals.

These three steps provide you with the strategy that gives you the best opportunity to accomplish anything you desire.

As you proceed on your journey, utilize these steps to accomplish your process-based goals along the way. This is why you identified and established your mountain in the previous article to facilitate the first step of this process in your personal journey. It is your job to facilitate step number two, and it is my goal to provide the information and knowledge to facilitate step number three so that you may conquer the mountain and reach its summit.


Now that you have established your mountain and know the three principal steps to reaching the summit, it may still appear to be an intimidating mountain to climb. Do not be daunted by your destination. You chose it because you want it - because a fiery passion within you burns and yearns to shed its light on the snow-capped pinnacle of your mountain. You will conquer your Mountain of Excellence; it all comes down to taking the first step and then another and another until you rise and grind.

Each morning when you wake up, a new climb up The Mountain of Excellence begins. Every day it is time to rise and grind (#RISE&GRIND). In your backpack are your experiences and what you have learned on previous journeys from past days. Make your journey by focusing on one day and one step at a time.

The importance of taking one day at a time cannot be overstated. When Urban Meyer was at the University of Florida, he broke the season down to 107 days, not 12 games or 6 months. This was a much more manageable concept for the players and coaches alike. You know your desired destination – the summit of your mountain – but you must familiarize and condition yourself with the fundamental principles necessary for survival. This must be done on a daily basis. Start by breaking the journey down into smaller chunks – winter conditioning, spring ball, summer workouts, two-a-days, regular season, and finally – postseason. It is the start that stops most people, and the start of your day is the most important part of your day.

As any mountain climber preparing to ascend Mount Everest can attest, one must gradually build the stamina and conditioning for the long trek to the summit. Putting in the time and establishing mental endurance is of high importance, so that you are prepared for the treacherous conditions you are bound to face on your long journey. Embrace the adversity and practice the mindset you need to succeed one day at a time to reach the top. Have patience in the process and enjoy the journey.