“Mental toughness is generally one of the most talked about topics, but the least understood,” says Matt Nein, a certified strength & conditioning specialist based in Salisbury, Maryland. “It’s about passion and a full commitment to long-term goals.”

Nein works with all athletes at Salisbury University, including members of its nationally-ranked NCAA Division III men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, to enhance performance through both physical training as well as mental training.

He notes that athletes need to understand, through preparation, how to handle different situations and challenges in order to be as successful as they can be on the field.

Nein borrows a model used by Ohio State University’s football coach, Urban Meyer, to stress the importance of mental preparation. Event + Response = Outcome.

“It’s very easy to see, when you start getting into motivation, being able to handle emotions, being able to handle adversity, and all the other things that are thrown at every athlete,” he said. “The mental piece is often not trained enough, but it involves a tremendous amount of the game.”

Nein shared his mental training insights with youth and high school lacrosse coaches during a presentation at the US Lacrosse Convention last month. Highlights from his presentation are shown below as part of the latest installment in the US Lacrosse Medstar Sports Medicine Health & Performance Series.

View Video Here:

Nein tells coaches that one of the first steps in developing mental toughness among youth players is to instill within them a passion for the game. Designing practices that are fun and exciting is one of the key ingredients in that process.

“We’ve got to be more creative in what we do,” Nein said, “and that’s a challenge. But creating passion is one of the easier things we can work on.”