Training Mental Toughness

You wouldn’t think of running in a 5K, 10K half marathon, or playing in a competitive football, soccer, basketball or volleyball game, without doing adequate physical training.  Yet often we (or our athletes) go into these endeavors with little or no mental training.  When I refer to mental training, I am not talking about the process of learning plays, techniques, or your opponent’s game plan information.  I am talking about training to be mentally tough… training to overcome any mental roadblocks that get thrown your way during a competition.

Do not give upIn sports, fatigue is highly subjective. Fatigue, more often than not, is perception.  The problem is, that a person’s perception IS their reality.  If they believe they are tired, they ARE tired.  Fatigue is simply a sign that you need to put your mind on something else.  You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you… don’t believe it!

You need to train your brain like you train your body.

This means practice.  Mental strength, just like physical strength develops over time, incrementally, and with consistent effort.

Most athletes and coaches are aware of how to physically prepare for competition… not as many understand some simple steps to help improve your mental toughness.

Here are a few thoughts… with help from a very good article in Runners World.

When you look at athletes that are considered mentally tough, typically they are positive thinkers and process oriented…. They know where they want to go and how to get there, both physically and mentally.

I discussed goal setting in a previous post, (Setting, Then Reaching Your Goals) which dealt with primarily performance goals… running a 4.5 40 yard dash…. benching 350 lbs….   playing collegiate athletics, etc.

The physical and mental steps that will lead to a performance goal are process goals.  Like all goals, they should be measurable and address your weakness.

So the steps would look like this…

  • Select a performance goal.  Decide what you want to achieve by the end of your training.
  • ID your weaknesses… mental and physical.
  • Set process goals… These are the specific, measurable actions you do to help you reach your performance goal.
  • Develop focus tools.  These are words and actions that help eliminate negativity, calm anxiety, build confidence and keep your mind on task.  These could be a mantra or positive self talk (finish strong, you can do more, you’ve got this) focusing on your body (perfect technique, fast arms), visualization (see previous post Mental Visualization) Use focus tools anytime you have negative thoughts, feel tired or anxious.
  • Practice.  Review and adjust your process goals if you need to.
  • Reinforce your process goals.  When you improve or master one of your weaknesses on a particular day, write down what helped you do that.

Your athletes will need help, particularly in setting process goals and developing focus tools.   They will probably have a good idea on setting their performance goals, but breaking down what they need to do for their process goals may be a little tougher.  What are the physical hurdles… what are the mental roadblocks… what focus tools can you equip them with to overcome these?

You can help your athletes get mentally tougher.  Like all things, the more you practice, the better you will get.  And like all growth, it will be incremental.

Jeff Floyd –

Flipping Their Switch

As I was checking the stats of my blog yesterday, I realized that a good portion of my posts dealt with motivation.  I think that is OK.

switchMotivation is a big part of a coach’s job; we try to get athletes to perform at a higher level.  I have tried to make several, consistent points in my posts, often saying the same thing with a slightly different twist.  I think it is the same way when we are motivating our players.  All of our athletes are different, and all have slightly different “hot buttons”.  What motivates one of your players may not flip another’s switch at all.

I was reminded again of what Seth Godin has to say about delivering your message:

“Repetition increases the chance that you get heard.

Repetition also increases the authority and believability of what you have to say. Listeners go from awareness of the message to understanding to trust.

Delivering your message in different ways, over time, not only increases retention and impact, but it gives you the chance to describe what you’re doing from several angles.”

It surprises (and delights) me when I hear from former players of mine, and they share what motivated them, or helped them perform better.  Recently, a former player, and now coaching colleague, was talking about a defensive goal board and goal chart we used when I was coaching at the University of Central Missouri.  He said:

“I liked it because it gave me a constant reminder of what we were trying to accomplish week in and week out.  It “defined” our defense.”

For one player, it might be looking at a goal board every week, every day; for another it might be a highlight video of great plays from the week before.  The thing is, you seldom know with certainty which method is going to resonate with which players… they probably aren’t going to say (until 10 years later) what worked with them… what “flipped their switch”.

Keep motivating… keep repeating your message in different ways, from different angles, using a variety of motivational and teaching techniques.  You never know what is going to stick, or when it will stick.  Just know, if it sticks with the right player, at the right time, you win.

You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you… don’t believe it!

Jeff Floyd –

Battle the Time Crunch with “Active Recovery”

active recovery for 3Yesterday  (Tuesday) we incorporated a combination lift (hang clean to front squat) ANDactive recovery” into our weekly (A Weekly (not weakly!) Workout) workout schedule.  With many of our athletes involved in multiple sports, most of them do not have a true off-season.  Couple that with only having 40-45 minutes during a class period, and time becomes a factor.  Dr. Dan Lorenz discussed the concepts of combinations lifts and active recovery in a recent article at, “Training Multi-Sport Athletes.

“Secondly, workouts can be kept shorter for the kids by doing combination lifts. For example, an athlete can do a hang clean to front squat to a press, or a squat to press. These are extremely fatiguing movements, but because it’s multi-joint and gets both upper and lower body, an athlete can do 4-5 sets of this and be done. Numerous combinations exist and are only limited by creativity of the coaches.”

“Next, exercises for other sports could be used as an “active recovery” between sets. For example, baseball players can do their rotator cuff program exercises in between sets of squats, cleans, or deadlifts. That way, the athlete is completing more exercises in less time, but also addressing needs for each sport they play. Sometimes, rope jumping or doing various hop patterns in place provide a useful means of an active recovery.”

Tuesday is our “Light” Clean day.  We had our athletes use the weight showing on their card for the Tuesday, Clean, 3 x 8 cycle, decreased the reps from 8 to 5, and added a full front squat on each rep.  We also had the athletes who were not doing the primary lift (Clean to Front Squat) engage in what is known as an “active recovery” phase.  We set up the routine and rotation as follows:

2 Person Rotation

  • 1st Set – Clean to Front Squat – Tricep Extension
  • 2nd Set – Clean to Front Squat – Upright Row
  • 3rd Set – Clean to Front Squat – Bent Over Row

The athletes rotated after each set, going from Clean/Squat to the dumbbell exercise and visa versa.  The athlete completing the active recovery phase (dumbbell work) began when the Clean/Squat person started, and stopped when he was finished.

Here is a brief video showing what the 2 Person Rotation looks like:

3 Person Rotation

  • 1st Set – Clean to Front Squat – Tricep Extension – Jump Rope (2 ft same place)
  • 2nd Set – Clean to Front Squat – Upright Row – Jump Rope (2 ft front to back)
  • 3rd Set – Clean to Front Squat – Bent Over Row – Jump Rope (2 ft side to side)

The athletes rotated after each set, going from Clean/Squat to the dumbbell exercise to the Jump Rope drill.  All of the athletes in one group began when the Clean/Squat person started, and stopped when he was finished. You can see the Jump Rope patterns at a previous post – Jump Rope Training

Here is a brief video showing the 3 Person Rotation:

When all of the athletes in the group had finished 3 sets of the Clean/Squat combination lift, they went on to their “Medium” push press workout, which is what the normal Tuesday workout calls for.  It was a GREAT day in the weight room!

We Did More!

Jeff Floyd –

Spotlight Update

A quick update on how the three athletes that have been featured in the You Can Do More! “spotlight” are doing this spring.  Despite the dismal weather, all three are having some great performances:

bayRoy Bay is undefeated this track season in his individual sprint races.  He has won the 100m Dash at the Rusty Hodge (Blue Springs South) Invitational, and the 55m Dash at the University of Central Missouri Indoor.  Both of these are large, Kansas City Metro wide meets.  In addition he anchored 4 x 100m relay team that set a school record of 43.27 by running a 9.2 split.  Roy also anchored the 4 x 200m relay team that won the Rusty Hodge Invitational.


hartThis spring Alexis Hart was selected for the 15’s Nationals Gold Volleyball team.  As a member of the Truman High School track squad she logged a 34’6” triple jump in her first meet, which was the first time she had competed in that event!  That distance is only 3” shy of the school record.  Alexis was also a member of the 4 x 400m relay team, which took second at the University of Central Missouri Indoor meet.


hayesJ.T. Hayes has already logged 3 Home Runs, 2 Doubles and 7 RBI’s in only 7 games of this rain interrupted baseball season for the Truman baseball squad.



I am very proud of these athletes for the hard work they put in preparing for their respective seasons.  You can see the “Spotlight” posts for these athletes, which include their current workout card, workout video, and detailed information at the links below.

Questions and Comments are always welcome!

Jeff Floyd –    Follow me on Twitter   @youcandomore1

My Squidoo Lens – You Can Do More!

Checking for Understanding

A point of emphasis for all teachers in our school this year has been  “checking for understanding” with our students.   As teachers, we are trying to move away from a strictly lecture format, with the instructor asking at the end of the period, “OK, did everyone get that?”; And with the students thinking to themselves, “No, I have no idea what you are talking about, but I am not about to let everyone know I am confused.”  By the time the final test rolls around, be it the MAP, EOC or any other standardized test, it is too late to check and see it they have “gotten it” or not.

As a coach, it is extremely important that we are doing a great job of teaching important concepts, and that we have ways to “check for understanding” with our players.  We do not want to wait until our final “test”, our contest Friday night, to see if our players have understood a particular concept, play, or defense.  If our players have not “gotten it” by that time, game time, then it is too late.

learning pyramid

Coach Keith Grabowski, Offensive Coordinator at Baldwin Wallace University, had an excellent post last week discussing the Retention of Learning and the “Learning Pyramid”.  In it, he details various ways to improve meetings, play insertion, practice and drill time.  I would like to share and piggyback off of a few of his ideas.  In preparation for Spring Practice, Coach Grabowski had these thoughts:

“With our coaches the message was to make meeting time as interactive as possible and to move away from lecturing and having their players read bullet points off a Power Point (lowest retention rate of learning). Instead, I wanted them to move towards using dynamic content whether that was Power Point diagrams with animations, still shot step-by-step illustrations with coaching points, film or preferably a combination of those things.   I encouraged our coaches to make the meetings as interactive as possible: Ask questions, have a player demonstrate, have them all stand up and show exactly the footwork or hand placement we expect. Don’t just allow the players to be passive learners.”

Yesterday, I used a play from Coach Grabowski’s playbook in my Advanced Strength and Conditioning Class.  We were evaluating video tape of their Power Clean technique. I used film from our previous class day, which I had exported to Hudl.  As each student’s clip came up, they were given the instruction to “Coach themselves and the rest of the class, focusing on 1) Power Position 2) Explosion Phase and 3) The Catch.”

We normally would do this in our Lecture Hall where it is a little more conducive to this type of teaching method, but it was being used.  We had to “monitor and adjust” and set up a film viewing station in our weight room.  Here is a clip showing one student-athlete going through this process.  The quality of the film is a little rough, but you can see and hear what is going on:

Coach Grabowski also discussed the benefits of making a screencast (or screen recording) of a presentation:

“I also encouraged them [coaches] to use our editing system to prepare video walk thru – essentially a screen cast of them talking through a play and giving coaching points. I like this method for an install because your comments as a coach are saved and accessible for player review later, whereas if you just talk through video in a meeting, once the meeting is over, there is nothing for the player to refer back to.”

My post yesterday , Making a Screen Recording, details how to make a screencast, or screen recording.

Coach Grabowski also took this philosophy out to the practice field:

“I also believe that our coaches do a great job organizing and preparing their practice drills and periods to be efficient and effective. As the learning pyramid shows, this has a 75% retention rate. The biggest area I encouraged both our players and coaches to improve on was having the players coach each other. I want every player not involved in the drill to be coaching and helping his teammates. I want the players to develop a coach’s eye for proper technique. I want them to understand and be able to see exactly right versus almost right.”

“To facilitate this I asked our coaches to follow a simple procedure:
1. Name the drill they are working and give the exact coaching points (being very efficient with language) that they are looking for.
2. The players should then be looking for those coaching points being executed by their teammates if they are waiting their turn.
3. They should also work to use the precise language that the coaches use. In all we do, we want to be able to communicate a coaching point in one to three words.”

You can see my thoughts on organizing practice drill work at this post: Running an Effective Drill

By implementing technology and insisting on interactive teaching and coaching methods from his coaches and players, Coach Grabowski is “checking for understanding” on a daily basis in the Baldwin Wallace football program.  Which instructional methods from the Learning Pyramid are you using to teach your student athletes in the classroom, in the weight room, or on the field?

Thanks to Coach Grabowski for providing a daily dose of great information via his blog: Coach and Coordinator.  You can follow Coach Grabowski on Twitter @CoachKGrabowski.

Questions and Comments are always welcome!

Jeff Floyd –

Going Until “Failure”

joyTypically on our “Heavy” day lift (Monday-Bench, Tuesday-Squat, Wednesday-Push, Friday-Clean) we go until “failure” – meaning we go until we can’t do any more reps using correct technique and/or without spotter help.  Going to “failure” is probably not a very good term to use, because it implies that the athletes themselves have failed.   It puts a negative thought into their head before they even step under the bar.  I prefer that the athletes focus on “breaking” (Breaking…. It’s a Good Thing!),  rather than failure.

When an athlete does a particular exercise until failure, they personally have not failed, it is just that particular muscle group has “failed“… is exhausted… cannot do another rep.  I think that it is important that the athlete understand that this is a good thing; that IT (not being able to continue) is not, nor are they, a failure.   Without pushing this threshold they would not get appreciably stronger.

Author Seth Godin discussed the idea of welcoming difficulties in his post, “Just the good parts,” last week:

“You don’t get to just do the good parts. Of course. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have chosen this path if it was guaranteed to work every time.

The implication of this might surprise you, though: when the tough parts come along, the rejection and the slog and the unfair bad breaks, it makes sense to welcome them. Instead of cursing or fearing the down moments, understand that they mean you’ve chosen reality, not some unsustainable fantasy. It means that you’re doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.

The very thing you’re seeking only exists because of the whole. We can’t deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.”

Training… daily, hard,  intense, consistent, physical, training… is tough… is reality.  It means you’re doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.    You have to do the hard stuff, not just the good parts,  to be great.  Embrace the difficult parts.

Questions and Comments are always welcome!

Jeff Floyd –

Changeup – Power Clean

power cleanAs a changeup (Throwing a “Changeup”), about once a month, we substitute the Power Clean for the Hang Clean in our weekly workout.   There is not a great deal of extra teaching involved with the lift; most of the technique and instruction is the same as Hang Clean.  The starting position is different, so most of our coaching deals with getting into the proper power position at the beginning of the lift.

We like this as a changeup because it helps teach the position we want the athletes to get into at the beginning of the hang clean.  At the beginning of the explosion phase of the Hang Clean (The Core Lifts – Hang Clean) sometimes the athletes have a tendency to bend too much at the waist, consequently using the back instead of the legs to complete the lift.  By teaching a good power position (starting position) on the Power Clean, it reinforces the position we want the athletes to be in at the start of the explosion phase of the Hang Clean.

The athletes should begin with their knees over, toes under the bar.  This will get the bar close to their body where it should remain throughout the lift.  They should have good bend in their ankles, knees, and hips.  Their hips should be down, with their shoulders back, and head slightly elevated.

We teach that the movement will begin slowly, with the bar accelerating as it reaches the area around the knees.  From this point on, the lift is identical to the Hang Clean.

Below is a telestrated video (with audio) of athletes displaying varying degrees of technique.

Questions and Comments are always welcome!

Jeff Floyd –

Getting Stuck

I like getting stuck.  I like being faced with challenging situations.  I like having to figure out elegant solutions to complex problems.   I like finding new and better ways to teach or explain something.  I like figuring out how to use technology to improve my coaching.

edisonAll of these things force me out of my comfort zone; force me to become a better coach and teacher.  I believe that in order to be a good coach, you must be a good teacher (Coach=Teacher).  To be a good teacher and coach, I think you must be a good problem solver as well.  And to be good at solving problems takes some tenacity … As Thomas Edison said, genius is 99% perspiration, and 1% inspiration.  Solving problems, whether it is how to stop the top rushing offense in the nation, or how to make a screen recording to better explain an Excel spreadsheet, is what makes coaching and teaching FUN.  How boring if everything was smooth and easy!

Two things that I took from participating in athletics as a youth that have served me well my entire adult life:

  1. Be tenacious – never give up on a challenge.
  2. Hard work has a value in and of itself.

I was fortunate to play for coaches that instilled these qualities in the athletes that they worked with.

Add another life skill to the things you are teaching the young men and women in your programs– problem solving.  You are developing perspiring geniuses!

Questions and Comments are always welcome!

Jeff Floyd –

Navigating the Workout Card

I was up the other night thinking about a better way to introduce and explain our Excel based workout card within the limitations of this blog format.  Typically, the first day we introduce the workout card to our student-athletes (or coaches) we use a projector with a laptop.  The session involves walking through both visually and verbally how to read and manage their personalized workout card.  I have found that trying to explain the card via this blog, by just typing out an explanation can get pretty wordy, and the diagrams, just being pieces of the entire card, are not as clear as what I would like.

To solve this problem, I figured out how to make a screen recording, with audio (I will have a post about this later – it is a pretty slick trick, especially when making recordings of your Hudl telestrated video) showing the various parts of the workout card.  This will be the first of three video tutorials supplementing my previous posts regarding the workout card.

  • Navigating the Workout Card
  • Managing the 4 Day a Week Workout Card
  • Managing the 3 Day a Week Workout Card

Below is the first of these video tutorials, Navigating the Workout Card

Here are my previous posts regarding our Excel based workout program and the workout card

I hope this helps explaining the various parts of the workout card.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, just leave a comment or shoot me an email.  I will reply!

Jeff Floyd –

How Do You “Skin the Cat” ?

  • “There is more than one way to skin a cat”
  • “There are only so many hours in a day”

Those two concepts are often diametrically opposed when coaching, and in particular when implementing a strength and conditioning program.

powers“There is more than one way to skin a cat” – or get a good workout! There are literally thousands of workout programs out there, and information about them all easily accessed.  Free weights, machine weights, dumbbell, kettlebell,  crossfit, sets, reps, cycles, plyometric,  Insanity, dynamic, Olympic, Core, P90X, this list of options go on and on.   And they are all good, all have benefits, you can get good results from them all.   If you had an endless amount of time (or at least 6-8 hours!) to teach and workout during the day, you could really explore and utilize many of these concepts and equipment.


“There are only so many hours in a day”.  At least with my athletes that is the case.  The are all in school, many are 2 or 3 sport athletes, some have jobs, they have hobbies,  they are in AP classes, they have to study, they have to sleep, they are involved in clubs and other school activities, they attend church and are involved in our community, and they have their families and social life.

So with those two opposing concepts, the trick becomes deciding what type of program to implement.   Here are the reasons we have implemented this training program (A Weekly (not weakly!) Workout Program) at our school.

  • I believe in it – our athletes believe in it
  • Lineage – The roots of this program, sets, reps, percentages, can be traced back to the work Hall of Fame Strength Coach Boyd Epley has pioneered
  • Individualized – Every athletes workout card is tailored to and based on their strength level
  • Efficient – Using the Workout Card (The Workout Card – Motivation and Efficiency) the athlete does not have to constantly consult a percentage chart.  The amount that they should lift is already calculated and printed on the card for every set/ rep.  They can finish the entire Core Lift part of the workout in 45-60 minutes.
  • Whole Body Workout – Most of the major muscle groups are worked daily
  • Combination of Power (Bench, Squat) and Explosive (Clean, Push) Lifts
  • All sports benefit from the workout.  It is not strictly a “football workout”. (In The Spotlight – Roy Bay)
  • Both Men and Women athletes benefit from the workout. (Training Women Athletes)
  • Flexible – 3 or 4 day a week lifting program (Problem Solving)
  • Flexible Cycles – Each card has a 3 x 8, and 5 x 5, and a 3 x 3 cycle printed on it. (Sets, Reps, and Cycles)
  • Flexible  By changing the supplemental lifts (Supplemental Lifts) you can keep the workout fresh, and tailor it to specific sport or athletes needs.
  • Motivation – Athletes see clearly from the workout card (The Workout Card – Motivation and Efficiency) where they started, and what their current results are.  Each day they enter the weight room with a goal of “breaking” (Breaking, it’s a good thing) on one of their Core lifts.
  • Easy for a Coach (me) to manage – We have over 300 athletes come through the weight room a day.  As coaches, there are only so many hours in the day for us as well.

All of our situations are different.  What works for me, may not work for you.  But it is important to know WHY you are doing what your are doing regarding your strength and conditioning program.  Doing something just because the University of Alabama does it is not reason enough.

Remember – You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you… Don’t Believe It!

Thanks for your questions and comments!

Jeff Floyd –