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Old Corps

Writing a book on: Mental Toughness for Wrestlers

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I’m a long-time student of this topic, as it applied first to my beloved (and undistinguished) wrestling career, then to my 20+ years as a US Marine.

I’ve never met an experienced coach or wrestler who didn’t agree that mental toughness plays a huge role in a wrestler’s success. Yet, I find very little material has been written on this topic that is specifically tailored to our sport. 

So, to remedy this, I’m in the initial stage of writing a book that is aimed at youth and high school wrestlers. 

I will be conducting interviews with coaches at all levels, and high-achieving wrestlers who were particularly known for their mental toughness, resolve, ability to perform under pressure, grit or anything else you might call that intangible quality that many of us have heard referred to as “heart.”

I’d appreciate your suggestions regarding folks I should contact and request interviews of. 

Thanks!

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There is a book published in 2019 called "Wrestling Tough: Dominate Mentally on the Mat" by Human Kinetics of Champaign, Illinois, one of the largest publishers of sports books in America. It is a revised edition of the 2004 book of the same name. It is 228 pages long and is loaded with stories and quotes from such legends as Gable, Smith (Bill and John), Sanderson, Kemp, Schultz, Brands, Ryan, Robinson, etc. Kyle Snyder is on the cover. It is available in every  Barnes & Noble and on my web site. -- Mike Chapman

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I’d look up wrestlers who moved on to become members of the military, Special Ops, SEALs, etc, and those that achieved advanced degrees (MD, JD, PhD) as those require more than intelligence, they require mental toughness and fortitude. 
 

Guy on our team, Scott Justus, undefeated #1 seed his junior year, beat Hahn multiple times while never suffering a loss, multiple Blood Round participant, 3 time state champ, Fargo AA, earned both a BS and MS in Education in his 5 years at VT, from the mountains of Grundy, VA, joined the Navy after graduation with the goal of becoming a SEAL because he said he “had never achieved anything”. Problem was he didn’t know how to swim so couple of guys worked with him the summer before his deployment, in the New River. During BUDs he gets in some trouble and they pull him onto a boat, revive him and tell him he’s done....

Ignoring the command. he jumps back into the water and finishes the 5.5 mile swim.

That’s mental toughess!

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There's a book called "Gifford on Courage" written by Frank Gifford and includes a chapter on Dan Gable.....seems like it came out not to many years after the 1972 Olympics.  I think it has a chapter on 10 athletes....this may help you.  Fadz

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Excellent idea!  I haven't seen much in relation to wrestling but there is general information available.  You sound educated and well-researched on the topic.  Here are three different sources that might help inspire different ideas for your book inclusion.

My daughter is in competitive gymnastics and practices 20 hours weekly. She has intermittent mental blocks due to self-esteem and fear.  For example, she was afraid to perform high bar dismounts and certain moves on the balance beam.  There is an online, live-video program called Head Games by Doc Ali that partners a coach with like-minded athletes to create an unshakeable mind  https://www.headgamesworld.com/.  My daughter is about to start her third, six-week program.  She gives all of her credit to overcoming fears to that program.  Everyone shares their fears and the coach helps them build a positive mindset and goals to overcome.  We (an all family exercise) got some growth through the self-esteem workbook.  She is just starting to read the highly rated book, Mind Gym.

There was a point during high school where I was anxious about wrestling an opponent with a stirling record.  My coach simply pointed out that that guy must be thinking the same thing about me.  That simple observation helped me move forward.  I'm very interested in this topic right now given my daughter's challenges.  And my young son has some fear of wrestling others - he's more flight than fight for now.  Let me know if you would want someone to give feedback during the drafting moments or sign me up for a first purchase :).  I read about 20 books a year.

What do you think about including a chapter+ aimed at coaches too?

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I love the story Cary Kolat tells about being in Krasnoyarsk and needing to take a shower, when the only shower available was a stream of cold water coming out of a pipe, in the dead of winter. (Krasnoyarsk is in Siberia)-his mental toughness story. I think it's on Flo somewhere.

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I'd start on defining mental toughness.  What is it?  How can you measure it?  How can you replicate it?  Once you start going down that road you realize that the phrase, "mental toughness," is an overused and cliche term that very few people can define or measure.  A lot of coaches and leaders will use terms like grit, perseverance, resilience, etc., to define mental toughness, so what we should do is to teach those specific skills, which can be measurable.  In the wrestling world, we get it, but can we specifically define what it is?  HOw would we explain it to encompass all sports and all life situations?  

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Old Corps, I would like to encourage you to look up “212 the Extra Degree” – there’s a 3 minute video of this concept on YouTube. It demonstrates how going just one extra step or pushing yourself beyond even by one second can make all the difference in the world. I think about the wrestlers going into overtime whose lungs are taxed and bodies fatigued, yet somehow one digs deeper than the other and pulls out the win with one quick move. I applied the 212 concept throughout my former career and replaced the sports figure examples with salespeople who outperformed others to motivate those lagging behind. I’m a firm believer that where the mind goes (mental toughness) so does the body. At first you may feel this video is not applicable, however, play it again and this time think of one or two stand-out wrestlers you could substitute for the examples they use. Either way I applaud you for this wonderful idea. The interviews you plan on conducting with wrestlers and coaches sounds exciting and should yield a lot of incredible information for you to use in your book. Best wishes for success!- oh, and thank you for your 20 years of service to our great nation!

Edited by Marcus Cisero

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I like @Glane18's suggestion to define mental toughness.  The http://www.mentaltoughnessinc.com/what-is-mental-toughness/  page provides a concise definition.

Mental toughness is the ability to resist, manage and overcome doubts, worries, concerns and circumstances that prevent you from succeeding, or excelling at a task or towards an objective or a performance outcome that you set out to achieve.

Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002, p. 209, "What Is This Thing Called Mental Toughness? An Investigation of Elite Sport Performers" Journal of Applied Sport Psychology describes mental toughness as... 

Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.

 

Mental Toughness incorporated elaborates on the scope of what MT encompasses:

  • winners mindset
  • hyper focus
  • stress optimization
  • failing well
  • maxing out limits
  • preparedness

 

I'd love to read more wrestling examples about mental toughness on and off the mat.  In 'A Wrestling Life', Dan Gable shares how his early success was an outcome of outworking everyone.  Before he learned how to practice smart,  Dan's workouts were performed with the mantra of “Push to Collapse.”  Each session was dedicated to working so hard he would have to be physically carried off the wrestling mat by the end.  One by one he exhausted all of his training partners on his high school and eventually college teams.  In preparation for the Olympics, Dan trained two or three times a day, seven days a week, at least 40 hours out of a possible 168—always with gusto and usually all bundled up in both rubber and woolen sweat suits. 

My ultimate goal was to be in the wrestling room with the team, pushing myself harder than anyone else, and finally collapsing.  I didn't want drama, I just truly wanted to reach that breaking point, to be on the floor unconscious and unable to move.  I even went so far as to tell my coaches that I may push myself to complete exhaustion and pass out....just in case.  I felt like I could really do it someday and I didn't want them to be worried.  I wanted them to know that if it happened, to just drag me to the showers, turn on the cold water, hydrate me, and get me back out there. - Dan Gable

Dan never reached his goal as an athlete and that fact bothered him.  He later shared a story about his daughter Molly at a 4-800 race.  She was determined to match the state's best and had pulled even with a 100 yards left.  She pushed herself so hard and collapsed 2 yards from the finish line.  She did something Dan could never do.  She pushed herself to the very end of all that she had; pushed herself to exhaustion.  That is how much she wanted that victory for her team and self.  Dan had a lot of respect for Molly because of it.  Later as a coach, Dan met his goal by passing out during/after one of Tom Brand's tough matches.  

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Actually, much has been written in scientific literature regarding the construct of Mental Toughness but definitely more should be studied. Other related constructs with similar networks of attributes include Hardiness, Resilience, Grit.  There are a few self-report questionnaires with varying degrees of reliability and validity evidence specific to mental toughness(e.g., MTQ-48).  Although the words may be overused, the measurement and development of MT is a significant part of human performance optimization.

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You probably already know this but JRob would be a good interview. I think he was one of the few philosophical and cerebral wrestling coaches. He routinely discusses the psychological aspect of wrestling and specifically fatigue. Check this video out

 

 

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4 hours ago, fadzaev2 said:

There's a book called "Gifford on Courage" written by Frank Gifford and includes a chapter on Dan Gable.....seems like it came out not to many years after the 1972 Olympics.  I think it has a chapter on 10 athletes....this may help you.  Fadz

I loved this chapter... I somehow found this book in my college library and read it multiple times when I should have been doing my"real" work. I don't remember other chapters but Gifford was really impressed with Gable

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Thanks, everyone. Your suggestions and comments are appreciated!

I have actually researched and written some material on this topic as related to special operators and members of elite combat units. Many of these guys had a wrestling background; most were average wrestlers, but almost all credited the sport with instilling many traits and qualities in them that helped them be successful in high-speed units. 

I’m hoping to do some good interviews with guys who have solid credibility in the “mentally tough” aspect of our sport. I think their insights and advice would resonate with the target audience of my book: youth and high school wrestlers. 

I also think coaches and parents will find value in this book, but my aim is to keep it on a level that will essentially replicate the type of “knowledge transfer” that occurs when a J Rob, Kolat, Ironside, Gable and others sits down in front of a group of kids in a wrestling room and speaks on this topic.  

It will be more of a “mentor/mentee” flavor than a research study. Many of you know how challenging it is to get kids these days to read anything longer than a social media post, so the book must be written at their level and in a way that keeps them engaged. 

Thanks again for your help and please keep it coming!

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19 hours ago, Jim L said:

I loved this chapter... I somehow found this book in my college library and read it multiple times when I should have been doing my"real" work. I don't remember other chapters but Gifford was really impressed with Gable

Yes he was, and television pumped up Gable prior to the games....there were some great quotes in the "documentary".  I have the book but it's upstairs, Rocky Bleier and Y.A. Tittle are 2 of the other chapters.

 

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@Old Corps if you need any assistance with the qualitative coding of interview transcripts, doing some inter-rater reliability on a subset, or building a Grounded Theory on the characteristics of mental toughness, I’ll offer my assistance, free of charge as a thank you for your incredible service to this country.

i believe what could collect could be useful in both the wrestling world as well as academia.

Feel free me message me if you care to, if not can wait to read your book :)

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1 hour ago, HokieHWT said:

@Old Corps if you need any assistance with the qualitative coding of interview transcripts, doing some inter-rater reliability on a subset, or building a Grounded Theory on the characteristics of mental toughness, I’ll offer my assistance, free of charge as a thank you for your incredible service to this country.

i believe what could collect could be useful in both the wrestling world as well as academia.

Feel free me message me if you care to, if not can wait to read your book :)

OUTSTANDING!

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On 3/26/2020 at 4:01 PM, iwrite said:

There is a book published in 2019 called "Wrestling Tough: Dominate Mentally on the Mat" by Human Kinetics of Champaign, Illinois, one of the largest publishers of sports books in America. It is a revised edition of the 2004 book of the same name. It is 228 pages long and is loaded with stories and quotes from such legends as Gable, Smith (Bill and John), Sanderson, Kemp, Schultz, Brands, Ryan, Robinson, etc. Kyle Snyder is on the cover. It is available in every  Barnes & Noble and on my web site. -- Mike Chapman

One of my favorite books.  I checked it out from my local library in 2005 and renewed it so many times that it was maxed out and I had to return it.  Luckily my parents gave a copy to me for Christmas that year.

 

The OP mentioned that it's hard to get today's kids to read anything lengthy - one nice thing about this book is that the chapters are brief - making it easy to read one section at a time.

 

Old Corps - I can't wait to read it when it's done!

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