How Does Mental Toughness Look?

Are You a Rabid Dog in Sports?


I’ve had two moms in Volleyball Power Hitting Clinics in the past few years tell me that they wanted their daughter to be more aggressive on the court, like a “Bull Dog” one mom from San Anotonio said.

While their daughters could probably stand to be more confident on the court and certainly learn to hit the ball hard at their opponents, looking or acting like a mean or rabid dog on the court or in a sporting event probably won't get you too far as an athlete.

Every one of us has different personalities and as athletes when we step into competition we do need to be confident in our movements and performance. But we don’t want to necessarily be aggressive…

Be Kind, Be Nice…



When I run volleyball power hitting clinics it’s really interesting to me how on one side parents, especially moms, are teaching their daughters to be nice, kind and caring people, with a big heart.

Then, on the court, they expect them to turn into a wolf and pound balls at their competitors.

So at home they’re being taught one type of behavior and then expected to use another type of behavior in their sporting events that they have no training with…

What Does Mental Toughness Look Like?

So let's get into what some of the best athletes in the world look like in competition. (These are some of my favorites - so I know this may be a little biased.)


Mohammed Ali - Confident, cocky…


Michael Jordan - Intense, Competitive, Driven


Tiger Woods - Super Focused


Roger Federer - Nice, Polite, Smooth


Serena Williams - Competitive, Driven, Fiery

None of these athletes look or act like a rabid dog on the court, however most of them were the most mentally tough of their sport (when in their prime).

When You Step on the Court - Transform Yourself

As a young developing athlete & competitor (on the court) and a nice, kind person (off the court), young athletes need to learn that they can and likely should act differently in these two environments.



The employees at Disney World have been taught for decades, when you step into the Magic Kingdom you transform into another person or character.

When you step on the court or field, you also need to learn to transform into the athlete you want to be.

It’s up to you to choose the behavior you want to demonstrate but the biggest point of this article is that you don’t have to look mean, look mad or anything even threatening.

You get to Choose your Avatar or Character.


Be a silent stealthy killer like a wolf.


Be the harmless looking raccoon that will destroy things at night when no one knows they’re around until they wreak their havoc.

Doesn't really matter what you look like! What matters is how you perform on the court.

These Are Skills!

Just like your power hitting mechanics or passing or digging skills in volleyball, throwing skill in baseball or slap shot skills in hockey, your ability to perform mentally in a game is a skill you have to learn & develop.

Don't Listen to Mom!



Well listen to her but if she’s telling you that you need to act like a bulldog and you’re not a bulldog type personality, then figure out how you want to look while you’re mentally engaged, intent & focused to beat your competitors on the court or field.

Then, when the match or game is over, take off your sports performance character and be a great person!

Your Inner Serena!

In the next article we will delve deeper into how to choose a character you want to be on the court or field and start learning how to develop into this character.