Let me state right off the bat that while the theme for this week’s Take and Run Thursday is on Overcoming the Tough Stuff, I’m going to take an innovative spin on the the topic in order to discuss something that’s been on my mind lately…
For starters, let me pose a simple question: In sports and athletics, what does “toughness” mean to you? More specifically, what essential qualities or characteristics defines some players as “tough” while others as talented, gifted, or just plain athletic? As I spent part of my Sunday night watching the annual celebration of amazing sports feats and personalities known as the 2008 ESPYs while in the midst of nervous anticipatory angst concerning my own athletic performance in the upcoming San Francisco marathon now less than a week and a half away (yikes!), I couldn’t help but wonder what makes these professional athletes and the feats they perform so admirable to us. What attributes do they all have that those who didn’t make the play or couldn’t win the title didn’t have? What makes them all so collectively “tough”? Hmmm…I was secretly hoping I’d listen and learn something from this exercise that I could use next weekend when I’m battling my own demons at mile 20.
After watching the show and conducting my own sophisticated investigation, [similar to what was done in the Mitchell Report], I can’t say I’ve come any closer to unraveling the mystery. Still, I’d like to throw out some of my own theories on what makes them tough( if only so I can take credit for them when it inevitably becomes part of the national consciousness…)
What’s So Tough About Tough Athletes? [with Case Studies]
1. Tough athletes must give a top notched performance at the grandest stage. It isn’t essential that they always win their respective matches (although we detract points if they don’t win a majority), but that they raise their level of play as the stakes get higher and higher. Obviously, the size of the audience matters too; just ask anyone who’s ever hit a holes-in-one on the back nine when no one’s watching. [See Tiger Woods at 2008
2. Tough athletes perform well in pressure situations because they’ve been there before – in training. It’s not a secret that professional athletes train, but what separates the tough athletes from their not-so-tough counterparts is their attention to detail. They have an intense work ethic and make every sacrifice to be at the top of their game. So much so that if and when they encounter situations and circumstances they might not have run into before, they rise to the occasion because they’ve been through the training and have done the work to be physically and mentally prepared for whatever scenario may present itself. [See Any Biegler at 2008
3. Tough athletes find a way, some way, any way to overcome an incomprehensible level of adversity on their way to achieving success. Let’s face it, if the course wasn’t so tough, if the odds weren’t so stacked against them, or if the competition wasn’t so fierce, would we really be interested? Yet, the tough ones almost always stand triumphant in the end. That’s what makes them special. That’s what makes us rejoice and remember. It is the journey that makes the goal so sweet. [See Eli Manning/David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII.]
4. Tough athletes find success when the majority of people put in a similar circumstance would not have. There’s a will to win that drives the tough athletes to never accept failure as the default option. They believe in themselves and their abilities, even when all common sense tells them not too. In other words, for the tough athletes, their passion and desire to find success becomes their common sense. [See the
5. Tough athletes maintain a pristine mental focus and self confidence even after their physical talents have long been exhausted. Every professional athlete is talented no doubt, but what separates the tough athletes from the wannabes is the ability of the former to use his mind to overcome the deficiencies of the physical body so that they are able to perform at a level that even they never thought they could achieve. They exemplify the true purpose and essence of sports in its purest form. [See Rafael Nadal/Roger Federer at 2008
What makes up a tough athlete in your mind?