Above is Welsh prop forward Adam Jones squaring up to All Blacks centre Tana Umaga prior to an International Test Match. You can see that Jones is giving nothing away mentally, and physically he is ready for battle.
The one quality in amateur or professional sports that is very difficult to define is mental toughness. However, I believe that it is the one quality that every one of my athletes needs to be a great competitor. I think that mental toughness can be developed over time, and consists of a complex mix of having a winning attitude, maintaining concentration, demonstrating the ability to block out pain & staying focussed on the task, having tremendous strength & endurance, and probably a good dose of competitive personality.
I took my athletes on an 80km bike ride yesterday, during which we achieved 1.5km elevation: it was full of hills. Once we thought that we had climbed one, up popped the next one. My athletes performed to the maximum! Physically we were all tired by the end of it, one slept in the car on the way home. Then this morning, it was a 2 hour mountain run followed by 90min tennis, and a solid leg resistance training session in the afternoon: 4 sets of 15, 15, 12, and 10 reps, about 10-12 exercises. While the first 10 minutes the session were tough, we finished off with a quick 1RM max of leg extension where everyone of them pushed the next guy to lift heavier. They had completely forgotten about any thoughts of fatigue.
At the end of the day, physical training sets my athletes up to compete. What allows them to be a great competitor however are complex mental skills that need to be honed consistently. Good daily routines, having discipline, a competitive mindset in training, setting goals & challenges, being willing to do one more rep/kilometre/sprint and chase one more ball can all contribute to building mental toughness.