02/20/2022 Mental Health And Mental Toughness Are Two Different Things

When Tom Brady led the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, he & the team showed tremendous mental toughness.

When Michael Jordan played thru an intense stomach flu against the Jazz in Game 5 of the NBA Finals & scored 38 pts to take a 3-2 lead, he personally showed tremendous mental toughness.

And yet another example – when Emmitt Smith ran for 229 yards in the final game of the NFL’s regular season in 1993 vs his Cowboys division rivals – the Giants – w a dislocated shoulder, he too showed tremendous mental toughness.

Mental toughness is pushing thru & over obstacles &/or injuries, individual &/or team…being able to focus & perform when the odds are stacked against you. 

Bc mental HEALTH doesn’t sound to the masses as “macho” as mental toughness, & it’s not as easy of a “sell,” we have had way way too many app companies, media members, life coaches – conflate the two. 

What we saw a short while back w Simone Biles in the team competition at the Olympics was a breakdown of mental HEALTH. A sexual abuse victim of Larry Nassar’s, her brother on trial for triple murder – the LIFE events of the past impacted her neural circuitry & we saw uncharacteristic errors from the top gymnast in the world, on a global stage.

I couldn’t help but think of that scenario as I watched (candidly on replay), the top female figure skater in the world, 15 yr old Kamila Valieva this past Thursday night, as she made several mistakes on diff jumps throughout her routine, falling on a few separate occasions.

She left the ice in tears…her demanding coaches questioning her for her performance more than comforting her. 

The back story is complex, but the gist is this: Kamila had tested positive for a banned substance back in December. The results of that test weren’t revealed till February 8, DURING this Olympic run, & after she’d helped her team secure a gold in the team competition. 

She & her team appealed to The Court of Arbitration for Sport – the highest legal body in global sports – who appointed a panel of judges & ruled on a narrow procedural point that bc she was a minor, & claimed that taking the banned substance was a mistake (mixing up her pills w her grandfather’s heart meds). We don’t know what this young girl did/didn’t realize when she shared that explanation. What we do know is the Russian team & coaches have had doping scandals for the last 3 Olympics. We know that they are very demanding in a win-at-all costs type of way. We know that THEY, the adults pushed to have her continue to compete – despite what it might do to her, the others on her own team she’d be competing against, as well as the rest of the pool of skaters from other countries.

There’s a reason why this has never been the decision when an athlete has tested positive – having them compete is traumatic to all involved. To the athlete themselves – would it really be a “win”??? A fair win? Is it fair to the other competitors? These athletes train their whole lives for THAT moment, & then on a global stage, it’s tainted in this type of mystery, w no finality? It’s why the other two Russian skaters – who ended up winning gold & silver looked anything but happy. It’s why (I believe) the greatest skater in the world, like Biles, stumbled like she did in this individual competition. Life stress & trauma are NOT the same as game performance obstacles & conflating the two is a disservice to all – not just the athletes.

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