Hall of fame NBA player Bill Russell once said, “Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”
In collegiate competition, the players and coaches are good enough to have made it that far, so what separates teams that are evenly matched physically?
“Mental toughness is even more important than physical toughness,” said sophomore soccer player Nichole Mertz, a nursing major from Springville. “Everyone gets tired, everyone gets frustrated, but if you can stay positive in the moment, then you’re never out of any game.”
Jon Judkins, Dixie State University men’s basketball head coach said: “[A strong indicator] of mental toughness is what you do after a loss. Did you watch film? Did you think about what you could have done better? How did you respond?”
The men’s basketball team breaks down each game into four minute increments and focus on winning one increment at a time.
In each game, match or competition, there are obstacles to overcome on the winning path. Judkins also emphasized the fact that the ability to beat obstacles makes the difference between winning and losing.
Mental edge is born from preparation and desire. It can mitigates an off night or silence a hostile home crowd.
“Even the best players will struggle mentally at times,” said Kacey Bingham, head coach of the DSU women’s soccer team. “As a coach, I try to remind them of their strengths and put them in an environment to [succeed].”
There a correlation between success outside of sports as well, Mertz said.
“Absolutely there is a correlation between mental toughness in sports and in life,” Mertz said. “Being able to rally from defeat and channel it into the classroom is essential to success outside the game.”
Both Judkins and Bingham said mental toughness was something that affects who they play and even who they recruit.
“We talk to incoming recruits about mental toughness before they even get here,” Bingham said. “It’s also the number one factor for starters in [our program].”
Judkins said that when players have trials in life it will be much easier to “overcome these obstacles because sports will have already taught them that skill.”
“Being mentally tough in sports helps you learn how to always rally,” Mertz said. “I just tell myself that I can always go faster, I can always do better.”