Modern football performance goes far beyond who is the strongest and fastest

The first image many have for sports training is a player running drills to work on speed or hitting the weights to work on power and strength.

In football, those training sessions are vital pieces of player development.

Additional tools such as watching game film, studying a playbook and maintaining a proper diet round out the normal routine for most athletes. In recent years, though, a new training method has been gaining popularity – mental strength.

When we look at the modern athlete from youth sports on up, we admire the physical presence. Athletes today are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before.

Mental Preparation 

But on game day, players need to be not only physically ready but mentally ready for the challenges ahead.
For the past three seasons, the Seattle Seahawks have been one of the more dominant teams in the NFL. Part of that has to do with great coaching and having tremendous talent.

Link to original article in USA Football.

Russell Wilson Credit: Photograph by Peter Yang

Russell Wilson Credit: Photograph by Peter Yang

Another part comes from having a high-performance sports psychologist.

Football is not always about who is the toughest, strongest or fastest. It is also about mindfulness. The Seahawks added yoga and meditation to their practice routines.

While that type of training may seem odd to some, the benefits can have a lasting effect. This section of practice teaches focus, awareness and clarity of thought. It also makes players mentally strong.

When the season gets long and weather gets cold and games are being lost, it can be mentally challenging to put forth maximum effort every day. This type of training can help with that.

Visualization

Another format of mental training is visualization. This is where athletes visualize what they expect to do in the game and what they expect the outcome to be. Players can also use this tool to work on a part of their craft where they are struggling.

If you are struggling with dropping passes, visualize yourself making tough catches. Then go out in practice and work on it. It’s a simple trick to boost confidence.

At the youth level, this type of training can help young athletes reduce stress and help prepare them for long seasons. Young athletes should be taught that sports is a game, and they should enjoy it.

In high school, the stress of making a team, starting and advancing to higher levels can take its toll. Players need to be taught that mistakes happen, that they won’t win everything and that it will take work and effort in order to be the best.

Having that self-confidence early helps develop athletes into better players, teammates and leaders.
Mental training is more than just being overly confident in yourself. It helps in all aspects of life, and it sharpens the mind, heightens self-awareness and brings calm.

Imagine running a two-minute drill during a championship game. Looking at your teammates, you’re going to want to see everyone as composed and as focused as can be.

Starting this kind of training while young is important. Like physical skills, you will develop mental toughness that gets stronger over time and stays with you long after your playing days are over.

Peter Macias
Pete Macias is a USA Football Ambassador, Assistant Master Trainer and Copywriter. He also worked for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is on the Advisory Board of the NFL Alumni Tampa chapter. Pete is also Director of Operations for Yoga for Men, and is leading its athletes program.
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