Building Team Mental Toughness – Are You Doing This?

By Joe Haefner

Use this great rule for your team that I picked up from Alan Stein:

Do not allow players to bend over and put their hands on their knees when they’re tired. If so, discipline with some conditioning.

Have you ever tried this when you’re tired? It’s tough, and it’s supposed to be. This little intangible will help tremendously in building your team’s mental toughness.

Not to mention, it messes with the opposing team’s psyche if you never look like you’re tired.


  1. Jeremy — January 29, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

    I know it may sound kind of funny at first glance – but this is an great rule! The first time I was in an environment like this as a player I thought – this is kind of pointless and well I can’t breath I need to bend over to catch my breath.

    Within a few days though I saw it as a sense of pride both as an individual and as a sense of team unity – as soon as one player would forget or give into the temptation to put their head down another player would jump to help remind them to keep their head up (partly because it meant more running for everyone and partly because you wanted to help your teammate out and show how tough you were as a team).

    No matter what was thrown your way you kept your head up – which as insignificant or simple as it sounds really has a profound effect on you. Try it!

  2. Anthony M Drago — January 29, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    That is a great idea. I actually use that with an added twist, I have them put ther hands on their heads behind their ears to open up their lungs more. Thank you for sharing.

  3. james — January 29, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

    i was assisting a team a few yrs back who did this, same effect and ive used the same ever since, also i like the comment about putting the hands behind the to open up the lungs more!!

  4. Mike — February 16, 2010 @ 9:31 am

    Great idea. I coach a 5th grade girls team, and when one of the girls is on the sideline I don’t let them sit or kneel down. My response when they look at me is to say that we all sit or we all kneel. I also make sure that when one of the girls dives for the ball every teammate runs over to help them off the floor.

  5. Peter Swan — October 4, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

    Alan Stein is a brilliant guy – I have had the pleasure of watching his clinics a couple of times – he’s a joy to watch, his energy is unstoppable.

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