Recently my good friends former NFL and Hall of Fame Strength and Conditioning (S&C) Coaches Johnny Parker, Al Miller and I traveled to visit a good friend, a Head S&C Coach at a notable Division I Football Conference Champion University spending 2 days working with both him and his team. At the conclusion of our visit he asked the three of us to address his team. I initially spoke followed by Coach Miller who always provides great insight and advice to both coaches and players. Finally it was Coach Parker’s turn to address the team. He opened with a statement I had heard many times before but this statement was never more suitable for such a hard working team. Coach Parker spoke of “toughness” and he addressed it with the following, “Opponents admire talent, and they respect strength because you have to work for it, but they fear toughness.” A truer declaration has never been told. I recollect the first time that I heard those words from Johnny; we were in the weight room at Giants Stadium working together during the off-season with his NFL NY Giant football team. It was some of the advice that he had provided to me when I informed him that I had been hired as the first Head S&C Coach at St. John’s University of New York. I’ve heard him use that reference many times since as it is always appropriate and never gets old.
“Opponents admire talent, and they respect strength because you have to work for it, but they fear toughness.”
– Former NFL and Hall Of Fame Strength and Conditioning Coach Johnny Parker
Coach Parker continued to enlighten the players with regard to “what is toughness”? Toughness is not worrying about the things you can’t control. Things such as extremes in weather i.e. too hot or too cold, poor game field surfaces, poor visitor locker room conditions, etc. Toughness is also positively affecting the things you can control. Ignoring the climate and working as hard as you can in practice regardless of the temperature and/or field surfaces. Being technically, physically, psychologically, and emotionally proficient on game day to eliminate penalties, move the ball on offense, stop the ball on defense and quiet a hostile crowd. Ignoring poor locker room conditions as players will still dress, get taped, and prepare for the competition as they don’t need a Ritz Carlton to have these pre-game necessities be performed effectively and appropriately.
This statement of “toughness” also refers to attending class, attending every workout and every practice, not taking a single play “off” on the field of play, always dedicating 100% effort to all that one is responsible. Toughness is doing all the right things through positive action, and avoiding the display of negative conduct, conflict, and unfounded words without substance.
Talent may be admired through a verbal compliment, strength recognized via “non-verbal” body language, but toughness will be noted by the fear in your opponent’s eyes.