When people think of sports training, the first thought someone might have 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 for player development. Additional tools such as watching game film, studying your playbook and maintaining a proper diet round out the normal routine for most athletes. In recent years a new training method has been gaining popularity, that method is mental strength.
When we look at the modern athlete from youth sports on up, we admire their physical presence. Athletes of today are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. When it’s time for practice or Game Day the players may be physically ready, but they not be mentally ready for what challenges are ahead
The Seattle Seahawks during their epic run of the last few years have been one of the more dominant teams in the NFL. Part of that has to do with great coaching and having tremendous talent. The other 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. While that type of training may seem odd for football players, the benefits of adding those practices can have a lasting effect. The 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 an effort every day. This type of training can help with that.
There is a saying that the game is 90 percent mental. Everyone from the Seahawks to NBA players to professional golfers and other athletes are now using some forms of mental training. Another format of mental training is visualization. This is where you the athlete visualize what you expect to do in the game and what you expect the outcome to be. You can also use this tool to work on a part of your game that is struggling. If you’re struggling with dropping passes, visualize yourself making tough catches. Then go out in practice and work on it. It’s a simple trick that can help boost confidence.
At the youth level this type of training can help young athletes reduce stress and help prepare them for their long journey to the professional leagues. Young athletes should be taught thatsports is a game and they should enjoy it. The stress of making a team, starting and advancing to higher levels can take its toll on a young athlete. Players need to be taught that mistakes will 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 will help develop them into better players, teammates and leaders. Mental training is more than just being overly confident in yourself. It helps you in all aspects of life and it really sharpens your mind when you become one with yourself. Adding yoga to your training routine will give you increased flexibility and help reduce injuries. Meditation gives you that self-awareness and brings a sense of calm. If you’re in a two-minute drill of a championship game and you’re in the huddle 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 you are young is important. You will develop skills that will get stronger over time and stay with you long after your playing days are over.
Peter Macias republished with permission americanfootballinternational.