By Adam Reed, Associate Editor
Toughness is hard to define. You can’t find toughness within an athlete’s physiological makeup, and you won’t see any toughness reps on a lift card. It’s an intangible quality, an attitude, and it’s developed by stressing those things which are critical to its growth over a long period of time.
Many coaches lack the tools to train toughness effectively. Ask a strength and conditioning coach how to build strong legs or strengthen the posterior chain, and they will have a whole arsenal of ways to get that job done. Yet the options for many coaches when it comes to training toughness are limited to practices that can be unnecessary at best, and in many cases unsafe.
Master Strength and Conditioning Coach, Dwight Galt III, is the Assistant Athletics Director for Performance Enhancement at Penn State University. During his tenure at Penn State, he has made toughness a focus for his athletes.
“The toughness aspect is a trademark of what we’ve done in the last four years since I’ve been here,” says Galt.
The most impressive part of how the Nittany Lions have developed their tough reputation is the intelligence they have exhibited in doing so. Galt says they take a scientific approach to what they decide to include or exclude from their training. He says it’s a myth that you have to be a “meathead” to be tough.
“At Penn State, we’re very aggressive,” Galt says “We’re trying to maximize the performance of the athletes on the field in the time that they’re here. There’s no maintenance. There’s no, ‘let’s just get through the season’ or ‘let’s just get through camp’ or ‘let’s just get through spring ball.’ Guys know when they come in, they are coming in to get better every day.”
Because of this aggressive approach, Galt’s athletes learn how to remain engaged. They develop toughness by being forced to give 100 percent every day. There are injuries to work around, and recovery isn’t neglected, but when it’s time to work, maximum effort is expected.
Galt’s method of getting athletes to keep giving 100 percent year round is simple. Keep things fresh, and constantly challenge your athletes.
When someone describes toughness in an athlete, they are describing the athlete’s ability to continue to perform at a high level no matter what adversity or unexpected obstacles they face. At Penn State, Galt challenges his athletes all the time, whether it’s running the hills on campus or taking a trip to the stadium to take on the stairs.
The initial dread athletes may feel for a workout soon gives way to pride in accomplishment. Galt says his athletes feel like “they are doing things no one else is doing,” and that motivates them to continue to push. It’s a simple formula, but overtime athletes become hardened to facing new challenges, to feeling uncomfortable and to doing what no one else is willing to do.
“They never dread coming into the weight room, even though it’s hard work,” Galt says. “They want to come into the weight room and they want to work hard, even when football is in full swing. It’s a huge part of the success of the top programs in the country.”
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