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Friday, May 10, 2013
Belichick's address: Mental toughness

By Mike Reiss

BOSTON -- After detailing the how passion, preparation and performance are benchmarks of the Patriots program he’s built over the last 14 years, Bill Belichick transitioned to a focus on mental toughness during his Thursday keynote address at the symposium "Sports Medicine and the NFL: The Playbook for 2013."

Here are some more of Belichick’s remarks:

“In the end, our ability to perform under pressure is critical. In that light, it really comes down to two things. No. 1, the team process, all of us being able to work together and perform productively in the way that we need to do to win. We use the term ‘mental toughness’ a lot, and to me that term means doing the right thing for the team when things aren’t right for you -- maybe a guy that’s not getting the playing time he hoped for, maybe he isn’t getting as many opportunities to do whatever it is he’d like to do. We all have to give up a little bit of something in this sport, and mental toughness is going out there and doing what’s best for the team even though everything isn’t going exactly the way you want it to. That’s what defines mental toughness in my mind.

"We’ve all heard the saying ‘there’s no I in team’ but in my mind I think there is a balance on that. There is an ‘I’ in ‘win’ and that stands for individual performance. Without strong individual performances from all members of the team, again regardless of what that person’s role in the game is – whether it’s the head trainer, the head coach, the offensive play-caller, the left defensive end -- the individual performance of each of those people is what determines whether we can win the game. We can all stand around in the locker room and hold hands and chant ‘Team! Team! Team!’ all day and that isn’t going to do anything. We have to go out there and individually perform. There is a balance there.

"Sometimes it becomes a fine line between doing what’s best for the team and your individual performance. The way we try to handle that, or manage it, is that your individual performance is critical for us to win, and your mental toughness is doing what’s best for the team in every situation. So being solid and doing your job, and if you’re prepared and everybody around you knows that you are prepared and they can count on you, and you’re dependable to go out and do your job, then it makes it a lot easier for the person beside you to go out and do theirs. So if I’m playing right tackle and if I know the right guard is prepared – he’s studied, he’s dependable, he’s going to do everything he can to do the right thing, well, I’m just going out there and doing my job, I’m not thinking about whether he’s going to be here, or be there, and if we call this is he going to get it or not get it?

“So the whole idea of the ‘do your job’ feeling is to make sure you do your job and you’re prepared, and you’re confident in what you’re doing going into the game – we give them written tests or tests on the screen so their teammates can see that they’re prepared, they’re ready for the game, they’re ready for these situations that we’ve covered -- and the next person can go out there and do their job without really a lot of concern about what’s going to happen around them. They’re confident of their teammate and the guy beside them. I think that extends to the entire organization as the head coach, that I want to go out there and try to be focused on the job that I have to do. I can’t make medical decisions. I can’t block. I can’t kick. I can’t throw. That’s not my job. Other people we have doing their jobs, I don’t think we want them doing mine. So it can all work together as long as we understand our role.”

NOTE: In an ensuing post, Belichick’s thoughts on leadership will be shared.