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What Simone Biles & Dean Jones Can Teach Us About Mental Toughness


In 1986, young Australian cricketer Dean Jones, was suffering from an acute case of dysentery and vomiting while playing in his first test for his country in India.

Jones was at the crease in 40-degree heat with oppressive humidity and 30,000 hostile Indian fans baying for his wicket.

Despite these challenging circumstances, the boy from Victoria scored a century. At the tea break in the afternoon, a fellow player, Steve Waugh, had to help him change out of his sweat-drenched whites and into a fresh set.

He went back out and by the time he had scored 120, he thought he was going to collapse from heat-stroke. Despite this he showed immense will and determination and went on to score another 30 runs, putting him on 150.

At that point, he crumbled and told his batting partner and captain, that he could not go on. His captain, Allan Border was furious and sarcastically replied, “Sure, mate, you go off and when you do ask them to send in a Queenslander because that’s what we need out here.”

Stung by this remark, Jones showed high levels of mental toughness and stayed at the crease, going on to score a staggering 210 runs. This proved to be his highest ever score in test cricket. It took him six months to fully recover physically from the effort and landed him in hospital for a while after the game.

My takeaways:

1. The mind will often quit long before the body does. By staying at the crease, Jones showed high levels of mental toughness to push his body past what he thought it was capable of.

2. When we can find a motivation that’s strong enough we can often exceed what we initially think we are capable of.

3. Sometimes we can have too much mental toughness. Was it really worth putting his health at risk for a game of cricket? That’s not for us to judge. We each have to decide what price we are willing to pay to achieve our goals, but be aware that too much mental toughness can be a bad thing sometimes.

Simone Biles chose a different route. She decided to walk away. That for me showed just as much mental toughness as Dean Jones, just applied differently.

Ignorant comments by people like Piers Morgan are responsible for much of the continuing misunderstanding about what mental toughness is.

Questions to consider:

1. What would you have done if you were Dean or Simone?

2. If Dean had chosen to quit despite the sarcastic remark from his captain, would that have shown any less mental toughness?

3. Has there been a time when you have pushed through despite wanting to quit? How did you feel afterwards? What about the opposite?

If you are curious to know more about how mental toughness can help with team development and performance, get in touch.

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