Considering I now live in The Big D, I figured this picture was fitting. I apologize to any Yankees fans in advance (yes, I know this is against the White Sox). Keep in mind I'm a Mariners fan through thick and thin, so I don't give a rip about the MLB playoffs.
Before this gets too far out of hand, I need to get back on topic.
For the past couple of seasons, I've had my teams write a short 1-2 page essay on toughness. The assignment is to define toughness, give an example of it, tell how you are going to be tough, and paint a picture of a tough player and/or team.
When reading the essays, we look for common themes and quotes that are meaningful. We then share those quotes with the team, even making posters and banners to hang in the lockerroom. It is rewarding to the player(s) to see their own words on display as a reminder to be tough. You will see who really puts thought into it and believes in what they are writing. Some players even incorporate quotes from professional players or coaches. One of our players this year even suggested searching YouTube videos to show the rest of the team. It really exposes who is passionate and who could care less (another player this year complained about midterms, practice and having a birthday dinner in the same week... basically looking for sympathy for poor time-management. He better continue looking).
The really brilliant part of this exercise is that the players determine the season expectations without even knowing they have done so. When we share the quotes, we tell the team, "These are YOUR ideas. We, as a staff, did not come up with it. Now that we know how important being tough is to you and what it looks like in your mind, these will be the expectations for you throughout the season." (**The players that could care less usually have a deadpan look at this point wishing they had written something else.)
Here are the quotes that we chose from our players' essays this year:
- Toughness is a mindset. I sure as hell won’t back down from any challenge.
- The single most important aspect of toughness is the ability to push your body to perform at a high level in spite of pain.
- Toughness is doing the little things well, and recognizing that those little things are what will change the game.
- Toughness centers on three things: attention to detail, playing with a sense of urgency, and being the best teammate you can be.
- I can never lack the heart to keep fighting.
- How you respond defines you and how tough you really are.
- Toughness is not showing weakness when it is really easy to do so.
- A tough player does not care about stats or minutes, but rather about the team fulfilling its potential and succeeding.
- A tough team will not play to any standard less than their full potential.
- The tough team plays as if it is one person.
- Tough players give their team the best chance to win.
- Toughness is to be unselfish and do anything in order to be successful.
- Every little thing a player does that goes unnoticed by spectators but is expected by coaches and teammates; that is toughness.
- Toughness is, no matter what their role is, perfecting that role to the very best of their ability.
- The biggest thing a tough player needs is heart!
- Tough players don’t complain, make excuses, or point fingers. They find a way to get it done!