One of the most important components of physical performance starts with mental preparation, often termed as “Mental Practice”. The bottom line is that before you do it you must imagine yourself doing it! I competed in AAU track and field beginning at age 10 as a high jumper. I was nationally ranked and won a bronze metal at the AAU Junior Olympics for my age group. What I learned, even at that age, was how important the mental aspect of competing actually is.
High jump in particular is probably 70% mental. I can vividly remember, prior to a jump, that if I wasn’t 100% positive that I would clear the height I was attempting, I would miss the jump every time. Was it because I was not physically capable of jumping the height I was attempting? Actually, no because I missed heights that I had cleared easily at one time just because I didn’t have the right frame of mind prior to that particular jump. However, if I saw myself clearing the bar I would make it almost every time.
Something else that I learned was to never focus on the competition. As long as I worried only about what I needed to do, regardless of the competition, I performed much better. Any time I worried about my competition I was not able to concentrate on my fundamentals and what made me good at what I did. I truly believe that learning this at such a young age really helped me in competition when I got older.
Football is extremely mental. You must visualize yourself performing at a high level well before the game ever starts. The off-season is a perfect time to learn how to train your mind to visualize what you see yourself doing on the football field. Don’t wait until the season starts. If you’ve read my blogs you’ve probably read where I talk about fundamentals and how that even includes learning to watch film correctly. Mental practice is also a fundamental. You have to practice it like you would any other fundamental.
During the off-season, the night before you go to the weight room or the field to train, visualize yourself lifting more weight than you ever have or see yourself running farther and faster than you ever have. Set your goals higher before every type of work-out you execute and visualize yourself reaching those goals. Don’t just go through the motions. Push yourself to get better and better and better! If you do this you will find that it becomes extremely addictive and motivating! If you only go through the motions you are training your mind to do the same thing during the season.
If you continue to set higher goals and visualize accomplishing those goals during the off-season you are actually preparing your mind to do the same thing during the season. Mental practice should be something you focus on the night before every practice and every game. See yourself making the perfect throw, the diving catch, the flat-back block, or the perfect tackle and you can will it to happen! Again, before you do it you must imagine yourself doing it!
Coach Van Tassel