I’ve been thinking about “toughness” lately (thanks to Jay Bilas for his book, Toughness). Yesterday I saw the movie 42 about the life of the amazing Jackie Robinson. Wow. Talk about toughness. I was deeply moved by the courage and strength that both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson showed as pioneers and history makers.
One scene struck me in particular. When Robinson is walking from the tunnel out to the field for the first time as a Brooklyn Dodger. Can you imagine the thoughts going through his mind? His heart must have raced with fear. What courage and toughness it took to step on that field knowing that whatever racism and anger it incited would be directed squarely at him.
One quote that resonates throughout Bilas’ book is “You are not tough alone.” I love that. Robinson was super tough and even stated (in the movie, at least) that he didn’t like depending on people. Yet, even he learned that he wasn’t tough alone.
Rickey demonstrated his support in a variety of ways. He coached Robinson to keep his temper in check and to not retaliate to racial slurs and other mistreatment. He was willing to fire managers for not treating Robinson fairly. He helped Robinson see the positive difference he would make in the lives of thousands of young boys who looked up to him.
And then there was Robinson’s wife, Rachel. Sometimes it’s harder being the one up in the stands where you can hear all the awful things fans can say. She not only kept her cool, but continually encouraged Jackie that he would make it. In Training Camp, author Jon Gordon says “You know you’ve picked the right woman when she gives you strength”. Robinson clearly married the right woman!
As you seek to become tougher or to elevate the toughness on your team, be reminded that neither you nor your players are tough alone. We all need others to challenge us to keep going and to encourage us in the quest to stay tough.