Takeaway #21 – The Big Three

Without question, the three things you must personally possess to be a good or a great football player are mental, emotional, and physical toughness. I call these ‘The Big Three.’ A player at these levels, both good and great, must possess ‘The Big Three.’ Obviously, talent comes into play, but notice that I did not name talent to ‘The Big Three.’

I approach this takeway through my experience in football, but you may plug in anything you do in life using ‘The Big Three’ and you will quickly get the picture! Here is my definition for each one of ‘The Big Three.’ You must decide if and how each one applies to your situation.

First, what is ‘mental toughness?’ I believe this is the most important attribute one can possess in the competitive world. Basically, nothing can break your will. That means there is something inside you that touches your very soul. That something will not allow you to ever give up, no matter what is happening around you!

Bottomline: You just will not quit – ever. You will not quit regardless of the circumstances you face, including the score of the game. People with the true trait of mental toughness will not fold up like an accordian in pressure situations. People with the true trait of mental toughness are hard to find and harder to beat!

Second, what is ‘emotional toughness?’ Naysayers will often try to interfere with your performance, but from my perspective the one who has emotional toughness has what we call ‘thick skin.’ I mean skin as thick as a concrete wall. If you are in a position of leadership, criticism can be expected but so can praise. It is ultimately how you handle that criticism and praise that will determine whether you fail or succeed.

If you are a person who tries to make everyone happy, you will eventually make everyone unhappy! The key is to focus on the task at hand, regardless of what’s being said about you or your team. Keep following the course you know will make you and your team successful.

Hey, all human beings have emotions, but real leaders have to be able to keep theirs in check. An emotionally tough leader knows just how to harness those emotions without letting them harness him.

Third, what is ‘physical toughness?’ To this coach, it describes the strength to play through pain not injury. Let me be clear; the difference between pain and injury is critical. Pain could be anything from soreness from workouts to wearing a cast on a wrist and playing, but prior evaluation by a trainer and physician is necessary.

Injury is an evaluated circumstance by a trainer or physician with both signing off that the player should not participate in any activity until medically cleared. No player should ever be put in to a practice or in to a game situation if a trainer or physician says no! What the trainer and physician say is it!

To play with pain means that a player, who has been released by a trainer and physician, is given the green light to practice and play. Or, it can describe a player who has never seen a trainer or physician in the first place. All people have a different pain threshold. That is just a fact. Some can endure more than others. That is a fact. Football is a physical game played by physical people and it requires physical toughness to excel. That is also a fact.

Now, having said all of that, exactly where do you go to find mental, emotional, and physical toughness? You just can’t drive to to your local grocery store, go over to Aisle 9 and pick up some ‘mental toughness.’ You sure can’t wander over to Aisle 7 for some ‘emotional toughness,’ and then walk over to the store clerk and ask which aisle ‘physical toughness’ is on. ‘ I wish it were that easy, but we all know it isn’t. For some people, it sort of defies explanation; they have just had ‘The Big Three’ their whole lives. There are those people who learned ‘The Big Three’ as they grew up. And for others, I have sadly found, they never have had any of ‘The Big Three.’ From my experience growing up around people who have ‘The Big Three,’ I am convinced that you learn ‘The Big Three’ while you’re growing up and you refine ‘The Big Three’ as you get older. You will want to get as many of ‘The Big Three’ people on your team as you possibly can! The more people who possess mental, physical, and emotional toughness – the better your team will be. It is that simple.

By Mickey Marley

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