The phrase “mentally tough” gets thrown around often in wrestling rooms. Coaches constantly tell you that you need to be mentally tough, and for good reason. There are so many aspects of the sport of wrestling that make it mentally stressful.
If you are not mentally tough, you will be severely limited in your success. But, saying you need to be more mentally tough without providing a means of increasing your mental toughness is like trying to squat 500 pounds without ever spending time in the rack. There has to be a method in place. One way to improve your mental toughness is to practice putting yourself in uncomfortable positions.
The idea that you should look to practice putting yourself in difficult and uncomfortable positions correlates with one of our major mindset principles. This principle being that you cannot make anything special, and you should treat your practices the same as you would treat any match. You can’t expect to improve something without working on it. It is unlikely that you’re going to be in a match or tournament and find yourself in a difficult situation and simply be able to summon some sort of mental toughness as if it were as simple as flipping a switch.
That means that you have to practice being in these difficult situations so that it is nothing new or unique when these situations arise in a match. That is what being mentally tough is. When you find yourself in a difficult position, you do not worry or create unnecessary stress. You are able to remain calm, confident, and address the issue because you know that you have already experienced adversity. So, this difficulty is nothing new.
Going forward, look to put yourself in difficult situations in practice. Remember, nothing is special. If you can’t develop mental toughness in practice situations, why would you expect to be mentally tough in a match or tournament?
Renowned hunter and long distance runner, Cameron Hanes, said that he likes to schedule his runs in the hottest part of the day to be able to add difficulty in training. Look to do things like drilling and going live goes in the room with wrestlers who are stronger, faster, and better than you.
Get in some extra push-ups, pull-ups, or sprints after practice. Don’t wrestle too conservatively. Be willing to take risks and scramble out of bad positions, and when difficult situations arrive, keep pushing!
Encountering adversity and continuing to push forward is going to improve your mental toughness and ultimately make you a better wrestler.
Wrestlers often get noticed for their physical qualities. People talk about the speed of wrestlers like Nahshon Garrett, the explosiveness of wrestlers like Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Dake, and the strength of wrestlers like Adam Coon.
It’s these impressive physical characteristics that draw us to sports in general. That’s why sports started right? People wanted to see who was the fastest, strongest, and most physically dominant athletes in the world.
While general components of the mental side of sports, things like the will to win and being confident in oneself, were regarded as important, it wasn’t until relatively recent years that the field of Sport Psychology was brought into the mainstream.
People wanted to be able to improve the mental aspect of their sport the same way you improve the physical.
For example, how do you train to have the kind of mental composure to be down the majority of the match and turn the tide in the final minute like what Jordan Burroughs was able to do in his match against Frank Chamizo at Beat the Streets?
That is the focus of Wrestling Mindset; to be able to train your mind similar to the way you train your body through your practices and workouts. But, the question remains, why do we include a spiritual aspect?
The answer is simple, because it is going to push you further and help you to become a more complete athlete and human being. It can be easy to compartmentalize spirituality and keep it separate from the various aspects of our lives.
However, allowing your spirituality to manifest itself through your wrestling can instill you with a sense of purpose to help push you when you think that you can’t push yourself any further.
As we discussed previously, the external motivators (popularity, fame, etc..) are more likely to fade when the going gets tough, but the purpose of knowing that you are wrestling for God is going to push you further than you ever thought possible.
In The Heart of A Champion, Bob Richards discusses a conversation he had with two-time Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder in the shot-put, Parry O’Brien.
When asked about the importance of spirituality in sports, O’Brien said, “You can train your body to a peak of physical perfection; you can have it as strong as it is able to be. You can concentrate on shot-putting to the point where you know every minute thing that you’re going to do. But when you get into that ring you need something just a little extra, something down deep within you that can give you that extra boost you need for world-record-breaking performances.
I always pray to God, because I’ve found in Him that power that helps me do just that little extra.” Compartmentalizing your spirituality and keeping it separate from competition can keep you from ever reaching your full potential.
Find your purpose and keep pushing forward!
This weekend is perhaps the most notable high school wrestling tournament of the year: Fargo. Here are a few tips that could help you to be mentally prepared to wrestle this weekend.
1.) Don’t Make it A Monster:
Fargo is a famous tournament, and the notoriety of the tournament can lead you to feel like you are in over your head. Refuse to feel that way. You are a wrestler, and you are there to wrestle. There is no need for it to be any more than that. Approach it the same way you would any other tournament.
2.) Don’t Spend Too Much Time Looking At The Brackets:
This mindset key was addressed previously, and it is especially true for Fargo. The brackets at Fargo can be intimidating purely on the size of the bracket alone. Don’t be too bogged down by looking at other wrestlers in the tournament. All you need to know is when and where you are wrestling.
3.) Don’t Procrastinate (Get Your Warm-Up In):
The practice room at Fargo can be difficult to get into due to the large amount of wresters at the tournament, but getting a good warm up in is important. So, go early if you have to, but make sure you are able to get a good warm up in before your match. It is important to be as prepared as you possibly can be for the match. This can obviously help physically, but can also help mentally by calming your nerves.
4.) Don’t Get Caught Up In The Fanfare:
Many wrestlers spend time in between rounds at Fargo trading shoes, singlets, etc., and this can be a huge distraction. You are there to wrestle! Save all of the trading and the fanfare for after the tournament.
5.) Don’t Get Bogged Down By External Factors:
There are a lot of aspects of wrestling at Fargo that can be distracting for wrestlers. For many of you, it could be travelling on your own maybe even for the first time. This means that you have to take care of your own laundry, travel, food, etc. There is a lot of factors and responsibilities that can be difficult to deal with and distracting. Some aspects of these factors you just have to deal with, but that becomes easier if you are on top of the things that you can affect. For example, getting to bed on time, eating right, and not procrastinating on things like laundry. Always remember to focus on the things that you can change, and not the things you cannot!
6.) The Tournament Is Not Over After Your First Loss:
It should be everyone’s goal to win, but if you do lose, you still have more matches to wrestle. Don’t become so bogged down by your first loss that you put yourself out of the matches to come. Learn from your mistakes and move on!
Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it’s business, or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don’t love what you’re doing and you can’t give it your best, get out of it. Life is too short. You’ll be an old man before you know it.
- Al Lopez
When it comes to being motivated, you can be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Someone who is extrinsically motivated focuses on the external things. Extrinsic motivators include things like money, fame, or making other people happy.
On the other hand, someone who is intrinsically motivated focuses on internal things. Essentially, being intrinsically motivated means doing something that you love to do, and being intrinsically motivated is a much stronger means of motivation.
There are very few things in life that you will encounter that are perfect one hundred percent of the time. You are going to have days that are harder than others.
Similarly, there’s going to be aspects of wrestling that you don’t like. Things like cutting weight, giving up your weekends to a tournament, and having to go to practice when you know you have a paper due the next day can be hard to deal with.
When you encounter those aspects, it can be easy to become so wrapped up in being mad about the aspects of the sport that you don’t like that you end up losing sight of the aspects of the sport that you love.
When you start to face these obstacles, the extrinsic motivators seem to lose their ability to get you inspired. Wrestling is too hard of a sport to do it for some sort of external reason. The people who are passionate about the sport are the ones who are able to push through the difficult times because they know they are doing what they love to do. They are intrinsically motivated.
To reach your full potential as a wrestler you have to be passionate about wrestling. Being passionate does not mean that everything is always perfect, nor does it mean that you love every single aspect of the sport. However, it is vital that you focus on the aspects of the sport that you love, whatever those aspects are.
Focusing on what you love about wrestling will motivate you to work harder even when you face adversity. So, shift your attention to what you love about wrestling, and do not dwell on the aspects that you don’t.
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