8 Awesome Lessons to Increase a Goalie's Mental Toughness | Lax Goalie Rat

8 Awesome Lessons to Increase a Goalie’s Mental Toughness


What does mental toughness mean for you?

For some, mental toughness is acknowledging that very challenging moments can occur in your lacrosse goalie career – and also in life in general – but having the capacity in a quick time frame to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Mental toughness can take many forms: resilience against attack, calmness in the face of uncertainty, persistence through pain, or focus amidst the chaos of a lacrosse game.

One author outside of the lacrosse world that I follow consistently is Tim Ferriss.

Awhile back he published a post on his site titled: How to Develop Mental Toughness: Lessons From 8 Titans.

I wanted to share these 8 lessons from his interviewees spanning a broad ranging of industries. While each person has a different background all the lessons touch on developing mental fortitude – a skill that is so valuable for us lacrosse goalies.

Under each I’ve added my comments on how the lesson can be specifically applied to lacrosse goalies – who perhaps need mental strength more than anyone.

Mental Toughness Lessons for Lacrosse Goalies

Below are eight lessons from eight of the toughest human beings Tim Ferriss has interviewed.

All are taken from tips discussed in his latest book: Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

#1 – IF YOU WANT TO BE TOUGHER, BE TOUGHER – Jocko Willink, former Navy SEAL Commander

“If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.”

Coach Damon: Jocko Willink is a man’s man. A former NAVY Seal and general badass.

Jocko consistently gets up at 4:30am to rise before the enemy.

The simple logic behind his statement is profound. Being mentally tough is – more than anything – a decision to be tougher.

How do I train harder on lacrosse field? Train harder on the lacrosse field.

How do I get up early to train before school? Get up early to train before school.

How do I stop being afraid of the ball? Stop being afraid of the ball.

Start with your next decision. It doesn’t matter how small or big you start. The idea behind this is if you want to be tougher, be tougher.

#2. I WASN’T THERE TO COMPETE. I WAS THERE TO WIN – Arnold Schwarzenegger

“My confidence came from my vision. . . . I am a big believer that if you have a very clear vision of where you want to go, then the rest of it is much easier. Because you always know why you are training 5 hours a day, you always know why you are pushing and going through the pain barrier, and why you have to eat more, and why you have to struggle more, and why you have to be more disciplined… I felt that I could win it, and that was what I was there for. I wasn’t there to compete. I was there to win.”

Coach Damon: If you look at photos of Schwarzenegger prior to the competitions he won, his face just seems so much more confident that every other competitor’s.

As he discussed in the quote his confidence comes from his vision. With a clear vision of where you want to go, the pain makes more sense.

As a lacrosse goalie, do you have a clear vision? Have you created a set of clear goals and documented them?

In an interview with former ex-Notre Dame goalie Scott Rodgers, he discussed how obtaining an NCAA scholarship to play goalie was his vision, his goal. Every practice, every workout, every shot off the thigh – they all make sense when you know what you’re pushing yourself for.

#3 – PUSH BEYOND, SHARE PRIVATION, TACKLE FEAR. – 4-Star General Stanley McChrystal

Coach Damon: Ferriss asked General McChyrstal: “What are three tests or practices from the military that civilians could use to help develop mental toughness?”:

His response:

  1. Push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of
  2. Put yourself in groups who share difficulties and discomfort
  3. Overcome some fear

Great points that every lacrosse goalie can use.

To improve as an athlete you must push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of.

When doing conditioning or strength training the mind is usually the first thing to quit.

We all have deep wells of strength that we may never even know exist, as they are closely guarded by a brain that would rather be lazy and maintain the status quo than take you to the next level.

But don’t be fooled by your own lazy mind – you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger than you think. So push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of during practice and you’ll see improvements in your mental toughness.

The 2nd point of General McChyrstal is covered by being on a lacrosse team. By being a team member we’re going through shared difficulties.

The final point he recommends civilians try to is overcome some fear. What a better situation than to overcome the fear you’re facing now.

All lacrosse goalies will face fear in their careers. By overcoming it they will be a better person.

#4 – PUT FEAR IN LINE. – Caroline Paul, luger, firefighter, and more

Coach Damon: In the 1990s, Caroline illegally climbed the Golden Gate Bridge, rising to ~760 feet on thin cables. Part of her philosophy was putting “fear in line”.

For lacrosse goalies fear is just one of many emotions you’re feeling.

But take a look at all the other emotions you’re feeling – anticipation, exhilaration, focus, confidence, fun, excitement perhaps?

So let’s take our nerves, our fear and decided how much priority you’re going to give it?

Do you let fear dominate your emotions or do you put it in line with the other emotions? 

#5 – IS THAT A DREAM OR A GOAL? – Paul Levesque /Triple H, WWE superstar and executive

Coach Damon: Evander Holyfield’s coach once asked him if he wanted be the next Muhammed Ali.

“Yes, I do” replied Holyfield. “Ok, Is that a dream or a goal?”

A dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve.

As a lacrosse goalie if we can set specific goals and work towards them it will increase our mental toughness.

Goalies with structured goals and a plan to achieve those goals don’t quit when the going gets tough.

The going will get tough.

#6 – PAIN TOLERANCE CAN BE THE FORCE MULTIPLIER – Amelia Boone, 3x World’s Toughest Mudder champion.

Coach Damon: “I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering” says Boone.

Her point is you don’t have be the strongest. You don’t have to be the fastest.

But if you’re willing to outwork the competition, if you have extreme pain tolerance for when the going gets tough, you can be a champion.

#7 – WHO DO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WHEN YOUR EGO FEELS THREATENED? – Josh Waitzkin, chess prodigy, push hands world champion, first black belt under BJJ phenom Marcelo Garcia.

Coach Damon: Waitzkin says:

“It’s very interesting to observe who the top competitors pick out when they’re five rounds into the sparring sessions and they’re completely gassed. The ones who are on the steepest growth curve look for the hardest guy there—the one who might beat them up—while others look for someone they can take a break on.”

You can take easy shots from 15 yards out all day. You’ll save every one, your ego will feel good but you’re never going to improve.

You can dominate the lower levels of lacrosse all day. Same idea.

But the ones who are really looking to improve their lacrosse goalie game look for the fiercest competition they can find.

They play in games with the guys who have crank shots way faster than they’re used to.

And when they return to their normal league play they’re a better, tougher goalie because of it.

#8 – THE MAGIC OF THE SINGLE DECISION – Christopher Sommer, former men’s gymnastics national team coach

Coach Damon: As a lacrosse goalie it’s extremely easy to get frustrated. I was particularly prone to frustration after letting in a series of goals during practice.

Or when working as hard as you could during pre-season but seeing little progress in my goalie game.

Despite my coaches advice that developing into a great lacrosse goalie takes time, I wanted more.

Here is Coach Summer’s advice on the situation:

Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence.

In fact, it is essential and something that every single elite athlete has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it.

In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time-wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration, due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process.

The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home.

A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge.

Refuse to compromise.

And accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road.

Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.

Certainly celebrate the moments of triumph when they occur. More importantly, learn from defeats when they happen. In fact, if you are not encountering defeat on a fairly regular basis, you are not trying hard enough. And absolutely refuse to accept less than your best.

Throw out a timeline. It will take what it takes.

If the commitment is to a long-term goal and not to a series of smaller intermediate goals, then only one decision needs to be made and adhered to. Clear, simple, straightforward. Much easier to maintain than having to make small decision after small decision to stay the course when dealing with each step along the way. This provides far too many opportunities to inadvertently drift from your chosen goal. The single decision is one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox.”

Such power advice from Coach Summer. Re-read that again if you never need a refill on mental toughness and encouragement.


Thanks to Tim Ferriss for posting these 8 methods of improving mental toughness.

I’ve reposted them here with my additional commentary because I believe that having mental toughness is of the upmost importance for a lacrosse goalie.

If you’re ever lacking mental toughness read through these 8 points again and see if you can apply them to your goalie game.

I especially love the final quote by Coach Summer – Show up and do the work!

Until next time! Coach Damon


Header photo by Diane Colbridge.


Who is excited for the upcoming lacrosse season? Would love to hear about it in the comments. 

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