Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Toughness Defined

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 U.S. Open Championship.]

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 U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials.]

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 Boston Celtics in Game 4 of 2008 NBA Finals.]

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 Wimbledon Final.]

What makes up a tough athlete in your mind?


MizFit said...

you already said mine.

for me it is 100% the athlete who keeps going after the body has begged to quit.

the tenacity of the mind and spirit.

now if I possess this is another question...


nyflygirl said...

I agree with mizfit-the athlete who never gives up :)

(funny, on my facebook page it says I'm #5 toughest...hehe)

Betsy said...

Tough athletes persist even if things are difficult. Even if they won't win.

Frayed Laces said...

tough athletes don't let a little rain interfere with a daily run

and they don't make excuses about why its okay to miss said run

of course, I'm speaking generally here...... :)

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice post! I think toughness is being able to shut up that voice that says "What the hell? You can't do this! Throw in the towel!"

Good luck with your upcoming mary!!!

Xenia said...

Sorry I've been MIA from your blog lately. Creative writing takes up a lot of time. :)

I agree with MizFit--it's all about mental strength and fortitude. If you can think yourself past pain and self-doubt, you are a tough athlete.

Concerning one of your previous posts--I may be considering another race this year. If I do, perhaps I can help you achieve your coaching goal. That is, if you take on non-local trainees.

Jeff Tse said...

Great article. I agree on all the points. You almost describe a champion verses an also ran.

sRod said...

Don't know if there is anything to add that you haven't covered already.

sRod said...

Don't know if there is anything to add that you haven't covered already.

Nitmos said...

Toughness=the ability to modify your goals post event to conform to the actual results.

That's how I live with myself.

The Laminator said...

Cool comments, everyone. Thanks!

Mizfit - Yeah, I'm not sure if I possess any of this either. I guess I'll find out soon enough

Nyflygirl - I wonder what number toughest I'd be on the list. Probably wouldn't even make it!

Betsy - Yes, I agree. Persistence is the key.

Frayed Laces - You know you're so wrong about me that I have nothing to say...

Steve - Thanks. Will need the luck, I think.

Eenia - Good points. Can't disagree on any of them. We can working out the coaching details later.

Jeff - Welcome, late comer. Thanks for the compliments.

Nitmos - Yeah, I was hoping to include only those points in my definition that I could check off the list as having done them myself. Great minds think alike.

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