The Frosty Atmosphere

Mental Toughness - The Frosty Atmosphere

This week, Scott Frost, the head football coach at Nebraska, got a frosty response to comments he made about his offensive line coach. He’d coach them so hard that they would throw up 15 to 20 times per practice. 

He said he laughed when it happened, and said he thought they liked it. Here’s where I first saw it. 

He got creamed on social media.  

Kevin Seifert — who covered Korey Stringer’s death — pointed out that Stringer was vomiting as he left the field to be treated for heat exhaustion. Frost’s thought process is tied to the mental toughness myths and its traps. 

The responses struck me, and not just the ones about Korey Stringer and others who have died from overexertion. 

The ones that got me were those that said they want to vomit at Scott Frost’s record or watch them play. Or, here is a new game plan — have your line vomit on the opponent.  

Wow. It doesn’t help to respond by continuing the cycle. You cool the power to influence. 

I wondered why Frost would say that. I listened to the podcast for context. In the beginning, he talks about how they have changed camp schedules to ensure the players are ready and rested. I am not sure he truly believes that. The interviewer asks legit questions, and ones that acknowledge the lack of success. 

The guy is under a lot of pressure. He won a national championship back in the day. He’s viewed as the guy to restore the program.

I have some empathy for him. Maybe he feels desperate to show progress, getting after it and building mental toughness. He’s dialed in — inflicting the pain needed to win. He — like many of us — was raised with mental toughness myths. That’s the default when you’re desperate. In fact, in his follow-up comments, he actually says: “I was trying to portray that we’re working hard.”  

In other comments, he said he was exaggerating the number. This just confirms my view. 

Even though he signed up for it, I bet it’s hard to sit in The King’s Chair. There’s pressure to win and be the savior. It hasn’t gone according to plan. Cults of personality rarely last long.

It’s hard to build a committed culture instead of a compliant one under those circumstances. I don’t doubt some of the players love it. Vomiting after a workout feels weirdly satisfying. But if even one player sees it as abusive, it becomes difficult to create commitment to the program. It makes it hard to speak up when big values are crushed. 

Those comments, and the public nature of them, may make it hard for players to speak up about their physical and mental health. 

We’ll be taking a mental break next Friday, but look for the next newsletter after Labor Day.