Creating Mental Toughness for Quarterbacks
When you look at the most elite quarterbacks in the world, there are many contributing traits that make them stand out amongst others. The rocket arm, the deadly accuracy and the ability to extend plays are obviously the go-to. However, one common trait that often goes unnoticed is mental toughness. 1 minute left in the game, no timeouts and 60 yds to get into field goal range seems a little daunting when you have 75,000 sets of eyes and millions of people worldwide staring at you. Not to mention, half of them hate your guts. How do the best not crack under pressure? How do they be efficient when there is nothing but noise surrounding them? Here are a few ways that we believe to help you achieve proper mental toughness.
Preparation and Visualization
Understand the X’s and O's of the game of football. The quarterback must understand why coaches call plays, how to execute them, and ultimately make them succeed against various defensive sets and coverages. Most teams these days have access to game film from the opposing team which allows for great success come gameday. Here are a few tips for watching and breaking down game film:
-Understand every position on the field and what they are trying to do (both OFF and DEF)
-Calculate by down what % of the time a defense runs a certain coverage/front - For example: Do they run a 5-2 on first down 65% of the time? Cover 1 in the red zone - 85% of the time?
-Memorize the numbers and rank every player based on athleticism
Along with the ability to break down game film, implementing a visualization process is key. Plays that are installed throughout the week should be played over and over again against a simulation of the other team's defense. If the offense gets to go against the scout team in practice, the QB is halfway there. The second half is done between the ears. Close your eyes, and go through plays against the opposing team’s defense. The more visualization you can do the better. Remember this: Visualization leads to preparation. Preparation leads to Confidence.
Learn to be Uncomfortable
Quarterbacks are flat-liners and must stay composed. Things can go sideways very fast when it comes to the game of football. One turnover could be the game, or it could just be a hiccup in the process. The last thing the field general should be doing is getting into a slump after one turnover. Learn from it, understand those negative things happen and will most likely happen at some point throughout the game. The innate ability to break through the wall of adversity at various points in the game is something that many quarterbacks struggle with. Learn to ask yourself: How calm and composed am I? Are the other players feeding off my negative energy?
The weather can also sometimes be the most uncomfortable test of mental toughness. In many provinces and states, the game of football is played throughout all kinds of weather. Snow, rain, wind, mud, and blistering heat just to name a few. A high-level of performance must be maintained when mother nature starts picking on you. Many quarterbacks have a tough time when trying to play under different conditions. We will be very clear about this part here. Do not always practice and train in a controlled environment. Learn to create an uncontrolled, game-like scenario. Is it snowing outside? Is it extremely hot? Go about this the right way, and be careful.. but game time weather will not always be nice to the players.
Everything we’ve discussed will come from experience and a heavy amount of discipline. Start with little things off the field and work up from there. Wake up early, make the bed and force yourself to not get behind in school. When it comes to the training program, challenge yourself. Keep grinding throughout that workout and understand that it will make you better, no matter how awful it may feel. Become calm under chaos.