Back in my wrestling days I would often hear from coaches that the toughest guy in the tournament was the guy who took 3rd place. As I began coaching wrestling and talking to fellow coaches, they would reaffirm this idea and talk about how some colleges would purposefully recruit the 3rd place finishers because it was a strong indication of their mental toughness.
Earning 3rd, 5th or even 7th place in a wrestling tournament means you had to battle back from a loss (or 2) in order to place in the tournament. It also means that your last match was a victory. Losing is a tough thing to deal with and it is inevitable in sport and in life. How we deal with losing and adversity is a big marker of mental toughness. Mental toughness is a huge marker for overall success in life. Not many athletes at the highest level have gone through their sport without defeat. Only the best have persevered and climbed their way back up to the top. You can only do this by handling defeat with a positive mindset, overcoming mental barriers and making adjustments as needed.
I remember athletes that would constantly get 2nd place in a wrestling tournament. Even today we can pick out CrossFit athletes who are always falling just short of a podium finish. I am sure you can think of some examples yourself. There is something that is quite common among athletes who constantly place 2nd or just miss out on a podium finish. Sometimes they are the most talented athletes in the competition and may even look unstoppable. But it is that little “edge” that is missing. It is dropping to the floor with 2 seconds left at the end of a tough AMRAP. It is hitting cruise control at the finish line, instead of the sprint. You can tell by the athlete’s facial expression and body language that they kind of just given up.
When we are coaching CrossFit classes we like to scan the room and see a bunch of “3rd place” finishers. We love seeing the extra rep right at the buzzer. We get stoked to see a successful lift after 3 failed attempts. We want to see the things we KNOW will make you mentally tougher. I like to think of CrossFit as mental practice for challenges you may experience in life. I am a firm believer in how you do some things is how you do everything. A lot of times individuals who strive for the extra rep are also individuals who see success in the workplace and in relationships. Tough situations are unavoidable throughout your life. Let’s use fitness as not only physical preparation, but also mental preparation to become a stronger individual.