Playing in adverse elements such as rain, snow, heat, and elevation is as much a proper mindset as actually dealing with the adversity of those conditions. If your mindset is not right from the beginning, it will be even more difficult to cope with the conditions. So don’t psych yourself out knowing that the elements are not ideal. Remember, your attitude about the conditions of the game will either work ‘for you’, or ‘against you’.
Telling yourself that, “I never play well in the cold,” will do nothing but strengthen your self-fulling prophecy. Rather, go into every frigid game with a mindset that says,
“my best games are played in the cold!”
Here’s an example, the NFL Saints where not given a chance to win a 2014 wild-card playoff game in Phillidelphia because it was going to be really cold and the Saints are an indoor ‘dome’ team. However Drew Brees and the Saints silenced their critics in the playoffs with a two-point win in Philly. When Drew was interviewed after the game he said, “It was more of a confidence thing than a weather thing.” Point made.
Now let’s shift from ‘mindset’ to ‘performance’ in adverse conditions. If the field is wet or muddy footing will be a challenge. Since traction is not good on a field of those conditions it’s important that a player shorten his steps when he tries to change direction. This is the case for any position on the field. Steps should be choppier and not as elongated. It’s important that a player keep his feet under the center of gravity of his body and not outside of it.
Handling the ball in wet or cold conditions is a challenge for skilled positions such as the Quarterback, Running Back, and Receivers. When the ball is wet it’s harder to catch and hold on to. A running back needs to make an extra effort to keep two hands on the ball at all times and receivers will have the most success catching the ball by using their body to help cradle it. Even though it’s always advocated to catch a ball with the hands, using the body in wet or cold conditions to help coral the ball is a good idea. If a ball is thrown above the head or below the waist and the hands must be used, a player must concentrate on his fundamentals even more in order to catch the ball with his hands. When moving around in the pocket, Quarterbacks should keep both hands on the ball until they are ready to throw.
Playing in extremely hot conditions or higher altitude is more about how a player prepares his body ahead of time for those conditions. Proper pre-hydration is extremely important when playing in hot conditions. I say pre-hydration because it’s the amount of water that a player takes in BEFORE the game that is important, specifically the day before the game. Once a player starts to become dehydrated during a game due to not pre-hydrating before the game, it is very difficult to get the body properly hydrated and cooled down during the game. Taking in water on the sidelines during the game is very important when it’s hot but pre-hydrating is the key.
Playing at altitude is not as much of an issue for youth and high school kids because they are typically playing games within the state that they reside and the altitude does not vary as much within the state from city to city. If there is a situation where there might be a change in elevation of 3,000 feet or more, having oxygen available on the sidelines is a great asset but one that most youth or high school teams will not have the luxury of having available. In this case, the best way to deal with an altitude change is to make sure that the players are well conditioned that week before the game. If a team knows that it will be traveling to a higher elevation it’s recommended that the conditioning for the week before the game emphasizes lot’s of cardiovascular training such as 400 meter running versus 50 yard wind sprints. During the game, players need to concentrate on taking longer, deeper breaths whenever possible. Additionally, pre-hydration is equally as important for higher altitude games because the air is typically much dryer and dehydration can happen even when the temperature is not exceptionally hot.