July 28, 2021
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Words From FMCSD Saints Coach Garbuio

By on April 28, 2021 0 43 Views

Mental toughness seems to be en vogue coachism right now.

After the close losses, we will often blame it on the fact that “we weren’t mentally tough enough.” But, what is mental toughness? And, how do we build it in our athletes?

In his recent article Developing Mental Tough Athletes, Cody Hughes, a sports performance professional, used a holistic definition from Graham Jones to explain.

Jones said, “Mental toughness is having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to, Generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer.”

We want our athletes to have the skills to cope with all types of situations, not just on the playing field. Bringing us to our second question, How do we build mental toughness?

The most straightforward answer is our athletes have to “choose” to be in these challenging situations. Athletes will be willing to face adversity if they enjoy what they are doing.

If they like the sport, if they like their coach and their teammates, they will choose to be in challenging situations. Athletes will choose to be in challenging situations if they enjoy the activity. Usually, if we want athletes to overcome adversity, coaches will manufacture it.

Coaches will schedule gruelling practices romanticized in movies like Remember The Titans. Coach Boone made his Titans work three-a-day workouts in the hot Virginia summer.

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“Water is for cowards… water is for washing blood off that uniform.” If they don’t want to be at practice, they won’t choose to face adversity. Teacher Tony Holler said, “If you make practice the best part of a kid’s day, they will be a better athlete.”

With the Father Mercredi High School’s Saints football team, our beliefs are rooted in our core values. We think we can build mental toughness without gruelling practices. With the Saints, we try to lean on our core values: Learning. Persons. Responsibility. Community.

Learning: We want our athletes to learn that it is just an event, not an identity, necessary to accomplish their goals. We want them to change how they talk to themselves. We don’t let them say they can’t do something. We emphasize saying, “I’m not able to do that, YET.” If they change how they talk to themselves, they are more likely to believe in themself.

Persons: We want our athletes to have lofty goals. In recent years, Fort McMurray has had football players on the National football team and sent players to play in some of the world’s most prestigious universities for some of the most famous coaches in the NCAA. These individuals are supported by a tight-knit community that encourages its people to take risks. Fostering a growth mindset allows them to make these leaps and accept these risks.

Responsibility: Accountability and responsibility are the same. This doesn’t mean consequences and punishments. Responsibility and accountability, according to Sports Psychologist Rick Maguire, is “Choosing to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it, the way you’re supposed to do it.” What that looks like is when it gets tough, our athletes decide to keep performing.

Community: Our athletes serve the community. They volunteer with Santas Anonymous. They help run extracurricular activities on weekends. They partake in Unified Athletics. Not because they are told to, but because they choose to. They know to be a leader they have to serve their community.

Photo: Coach Kevin Garbuio explains how his team demonstrates mental toughness through their core values. Photo by Ethan Lewis, Father Mercredi High School photography student. Photo supplied

About the author

Kevin Garbuio is a Middle School Vocational Education Teacher at Father Mercredi High School and Head Coach of the FMCSD Saints football team. In March, the Saints received funding from the Alberta government to launch a series of online conferences to focus on mental health to help the players and the community.