One characteristic of plants, shrubs, and flowers is hardiness. A plant’s hardiness includes its ability to withstand drought, wind, cold, and heat. The common trait among all hardy plants, however, is the presence of a taproot. The taproot looks similar to a carrot or turnip and grows vertically down as opposed to branching off horizontally.

A taproot is similar in function to a major artery in the human body. The taproot distributes water where needed, and it makes the plant very difficult to displace because it will continue to re-sprout. Ironically, the hardiest types of plants (weeds) are usually the most undesirable to the typical homeowner.

Take the dandelion, for instance. It sprouts very quickly in most types of soil, in any climate, and with little or lots of rainfall. It is a very hardy plant!

Gardeners’ attempts to develop strains of beautiful plants and shrubs involve the process of “hardening.” As can be done with plants, we can develop a hardiness factor in ourselves---an ability to survive and thrive in adverse conditions.

The concept of hardiness is most akin to resiliency, or mental toughness. Whereas 82% of coaches have rated mental toughness as the most important psychological skill, only 9% of coaches reported effectively developing this trait.

Thus, hardiness and mental toughness begin with the development of a human taproot of these qualities. View the following and determine if you and your players have an established taproot of hardiness, which contains the three C’s of Commitment, Challenge, and Control.

Since sport and life requires commitment to practice, training, traveling, and sacrifice, individuals often have a love/hate relationship with their sport. A question I often ask clients is Why Do You Play? Whereas it may seem like an easy question to answer, the response usually reveals the presence of or lack of a taproot.

Events are either perceived as challenges or as threats and one’s attitude toward stressful events is often a good indicator. This concept is revealed in the aspect of wanting the last shot. For instance, Zach Johnson commented that during the 2007 Masters he didn’t get nervous, instead, he said, “I was excited.” Other examples of challenge include how the team reacts when facing a demanding practice or how one reacts with another player in one’s position.

Do you have control over the events in your life? Most feel in control when play is good, yet sense a lack of control when little is going well. A gauge of this is when people blame their poor play on external circumstances like bad bounces, other people, or bad weather. People with an established taproot find a way to direct their focus on aspects of play which they can control, and avoid dwelling on uncontrollable factors.

Rob Bell, PhD, Professor of Sport Psychology at Ball State University, can be reached at (865) 591-7730 or

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Bell is a professor, sports psychology consultant, and caddy on professional golf tours. Dr. Rob Bell is committed to helping athletes and coaches develop the mental toughness necessary to acheive their best.