Tag: focus

Player Development and Mental Skills: Why Does It Matter?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

The Why:  

When you think of any sport, there are always fundamentals and strategy that come into play.  There are roles and responsibilities, specific skills, things to focus on, adrenaline spikes, fatigue, ups and downs, and these are just the demands that occur during one performance.  We spend so much of our training and efforts around learning how to do the task, that we forget to consider the demands we face while performing under pressure.  At Premier Sport Psychology, we teach coaches and athletes how to implement processes around training for BOTH the tasks and demands of their sport.  In doing so, you have a structured process for program and player development to reach an optimal level of consistent high performance.

The What:

Mental skills are designed to help athletes organize what they are learning from their coaches and cope with the demands of performing under pressure.  Therefore, mental skills are either organizational or motivational in nature.

  1. Organizational – Organizational mental skills help athletes develop structures around their development.  These skills bring attention to detail how they train for competition in order to keep their efforts in areas that they can control.  Some examples of organizational mental skills include:
    1. Goal-Setting
    2. Focus and Attention
    3. Mental Rehearsal
  2. Motivational – Motivational mental skills help athletes manage the demands and challenges they encounter during performances.  These skills help athletes raise their awareness, problem solve, adjust and maintain motivation after mistakes are made.  Some examples of motivational mental skills include:
    1. Confidence
    2. Mindful Behavior
    3. Self-Talk

The How:  

At Premier Sport Psychology, we find that many athletes are in one of three stages (Defining their process, Refining their process, or Mastering their process).  Use the questions below to identify which stage your child falls under in order to help your child develop a plan.

  1. What are the tasks you are expected to perform within your sport?   (If team sport, break down the positional fundamentals/tasks)
  2. What are the biggest challenges or annoyances you experience that hinder your ability to perform?  (During a game or over the season)
  3. What structures do you have in place to improve these areas?

Summary:

After answering the questions above, which areas need more specific strategies?  Can they be addressed by you?  Or the coach?  Or are the areas a bit more subjective?  Leveraging a sport psychologist or mental skills coach can help you and your child fill in those gaps and identify a clear path to high level performance.

 

Bonus Material:  One of the key components of developing peak performance is develop strong habits with your attention.  Click our link below to visit our Premier Mindset Program site and subscribe to our mailing list to download a free focus exercise to start training today!

Get the Free Focus Exercise here!

 

 

The Psychological Effect of Long Distance Pacers

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

If you have run or even watched a marathon, you have surely seen the pacers leading packs of people while carrying pieces of paper on poles signifying the time that they are pacing for. Pacers are experienced runners who keep track of the time during a race and run at a pace which will allow them to finish the race at the time their sign publicizes. Less experienced runners run nearby the pacer during a race to be sure that they finish at the time they desire without over exerting themselves.

Pacers take much of the thought out of running. Instead of a runner having to pace himself or herself, one simply has to keep up with the pacer. Because of this, pacers have been used throughout the history of running to break world records. One of the most significant of these records is Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile. The sub-four-minute mile was thought to be unreachable. Athletes had tried time and time again, often running the mile just seconds above four minutes. Bannister was the first to run a mile below four minutes, finishing the mile at 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds in 1954, and he credits much of this time to the two pacers who helped him during the race, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher. More recently, Nike put on a project for three champion marathoners to break the two-hour marathon with the help of pacers and Nike’s new marathon designed shoe. With multiple different pacing groups containing many different experienced runners, Nike created an intense pacing plan which allowed one runner to finished at 2:00:25, 2 minutes closer to the sub-two-hour marathon than ever before.

From these examples, it is clear to see that pacing is a way to both assist and push runners. But how does it work? While much of the effect of pacing can be said to be due to physiological effects, psychologically, pacers allow runners’ focus on more important aspects of race. During a race without a pacer, runners have multiple things to think about. Runners are receiving many signals throughout a race including those of pain from their aching bodies telling them to slow down or stop. If a runner is not focused on something ahead of them, they are likely to have their focus drift to the feelings of pain, causing them to slow down without even noticing it. A pacer in front of the runner allows that runner to focus solely on keeping up and keeps the runner in check.

One research study measured the effects of a self-controlled pace versus a pace set by a second runner on a nonelite runner. The results showed that when the second runner was setting the pace, the nonelite runners perceived the run as easier, despite the fact that it was still the same 5 km that they had run at a self-controlled pace (Bath et al., 2012). Yet another study showed that an externally-controlled pace aided performance when compared to a self-controlled pacing strategy due to increased attentional focus (Brick et al., 2016). The results of these two studies suggest that running alongside a pacer aids performance because it reduces the amount of mental energy a runner has to use on thoughts regarding their pace. A runner who is focused on maintaining their pace sacrifices mental energy that could be put towards more important aspects such pushing himself or herself to the finish line.

So what does this mean for other sports? While the concept of a pacemaker cannot be introduced into many other competitive realms, such as basketball, learning from the benefits gained from pacemakers can help your own performance. The main benefit gained from pacemakers is, evidently, that reducing the amount of required thought about topics which can be externally controlled can aid in both focus and performance. With this, you can take the idea of narrowing your focus, apply it to your own performance, and like a runner following a pacer, keep your head up and look forward.

 

References

Bath, D., Turner, L.A., Bosch, A.N., Tucker, R. Lambert, E.V., Thompson, K.G., & St Clair Gibson, (2012). The effect of a second runner on pacing strategy and RPE during a running time trial. International Journal of Sport Physiology Performance, 7(1), 26-32.

Brick, N.E., Campbell, M.J., Metcalfe, R.S., Mair, J.L, & MacInyre, T.E. (2016). Altering pace control and pace regulation: Attentional focus effects during running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(5), 879-86. doi: 10.1249/MS.0000000000000843.

Friel, A. (2016). Hired guns: A brief history of the pacer [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://thelongslowdistance.com/2016/02/09/hired-guns-a-brief-history-of-the-pacer/.

Huebsch, T. (2017). Big names in running comprise roster of pacers set to lead Nike’s Breaking2 attempt [News Article]. Retrieved from http://runningmagazine.ca/nikes-sub-two-marathon-breaking2-pacers/.

Nolan, A. (2017). So close! Kipchoge runs a 2:00:25 in the Breaking2 attempt [News Article]. Retrieved from http://www.runnersworld.com/2-hour-marathon/so-close-kipchoge-runs-a-20025-in-the-breaking2-attempt.

 

 

Selective Attention in Irish Dance

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Just over 3,000 Irish dancers from all regions of the world flocked to New Orleans early this month for the North American Irish Dance Championships, the biggest Irish dance event of the summer. As dancers and spectators walked into one of the many ballrooms, they were immediately blinded by the sparkling dresses and the curly wigs of those competing. In the front of the room, competitors danced on the raised stage with seven snappily dressed judges watching, pens positioned to write their comments.

There are thousands of distractions for the dancers on stage. The audience talking, the other dancers practicing backstage, the sparkles shining off of the bright stage lights, and the thoughts circling inside their heads are some of the many distractions dancers face. One of the most potentially harmful distractions in all of Irish dance, though, is the competitor dancing alongside you on stage. The question posed is how can you focus on your own dancing when your competitor is on the stage at the same time as you, dancing to the same music, but doing a different dance? It seems almost impossible to ignore the thought of accidentally colliding with him or her. Not only do you have to perform your own dance to the best of your ability, you have to dodge the other competitor while doing so. How can you pay attention to your competitor while still maintaining focus on the task in front of you? It ultimately comes down to this question: what are the right things to focus on and how do you focus on those things alone?  We call this selective attention, and it is a critical skill to optimizing your performance in any skill or setting.

There are many uncontrollable parts of dancing, but luckily, your focus is one thing that you can control. Thousands of pieces of information are processed by your brain each and every day, and every second you can actively choose to focus on one specific thing and attempt to tune out all other background information. With all of the competing stimuli around you, thoughts that are not relevant to your performance are inevitably going to run through your head. For example, an Irish dancer on stage may think about what that other dancer on stage is doing. How you respond to that thought is crucial. Acknowledge that thought, whether good or bad, and then let it go. Because focus is a limited resource for the human brain, realizing what thoughts are necessary for performance and what thoughts are not is imperative to focus.

One way to improve your focus is to plan ahead and recognize, before you begin a performance, what will distract you and what will help you during the performance. In the context of an Irish dance performance, a dancer may note that worrying about running into her competitor will distract her during the performance.  Planning ahead and knowing that this distraction may occur will help the dancer to acknowledge the thought and then let it go, making room in her window of focus for constructive thoughts which will help performance. Constructive thoughts for an Irish dancer may include aspects of dancing that the dancer can control, such as foot placement and navigating around the competitor.

Lastly, it is important to remember that improving focus requires persistence. Even with training, your focus may occasionally drift, especially when your mind is tired. Training your mind to refocus when you start to concentrate on thoughts irrelevant to your performance is key. Refocus yourself by concentrating on behaviors that you can control and that will be helpful and relevant to your performance.

Focus is not just important for Irish dancers, though. Every sport has hundreds of distractions calling to the athlete from all sides. Every task you perform has the possibility of being impacted by the many distractions around you. Zoning in on what is important, recognizing what is not, and being able to refocus your attention helps to organize the thousands of bits of information that the world is throwing at you into productive and useful thoughts that can move you forward.

 

References:

“Mindset Training Program: Focus.”  Premier Sport Psychology.

Goleman, D. (2014). Focus: the hidden driver of excellence. New Delhi: Bloomsbury Publishing      India.

 

March Madness and Focus

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

March Madness is here, and fans are itching to see which NCAA Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball teams will be the last ones standing. People from all over the United States have made predictions about which teams will advance and which ones will crumble. Logic, however, rarely gets its way when it comes to March Madness. Every year, we witness unexpected upsets and blowouts. So why are some teams more clutch than others when it comes to the games that matter most? The answer may lie heavily in the players’ abilities to exercise one mental skill properly––focus. Every team in the tournament has physical talent, there’s no doubt about that. They are all well-trained and conditioned for highly competitive moments like these, but which teams can truthfully say that they are as prepared mentally as they are physically? Those who can are the teams who will likely wind up advancing furthest in the tournament.

There are two primary ways in which players can enhance their focus on the court. The first method involves concentrating on the processes and actions which have helped them to achieve success during past games. Some athletes almost involuntarily form game-day consistent routines over time as they progress in their careers. These may include things such as listening to pre-game music to calm nerves, taking the same number of dribbles before a free throw, or thinking back to past achievements and attempting to replicate the actions and mindset which aided in attaining those achievements. Players who have not yet created routines could greatly benefit from doing so, as these may help them to focus on the task at hand, as opposed to becoming overwhelmed or letting their nerves get the best of them. By performing dependable procedures and drawing on previous successes throughout each game, players are able to build confidence through consistency. Rather than merely focusing on the score and on wanting to win, they are keyed into the processes which can ultimately help them to do so.

A second way players can amplify their level of focus is by thinking about the controllables of the game rather than the uncontrollables. Within the sport of basketball, uncontrollables may include factors such as expectations from others, qualities of the opposing team (e.g., size, speed, skills, reputation, and character), playing time, and calls made by the refs (Competitive Advantage, 1999). Concentrating on these aspects of the game takes mental energy away from a player’s own actions and from what they as an individual can do to perform optimally. If a player cannot change something, then the only way to get around it is to deal with what they can change. Doing so inevitably helps them navigate the unchangeable factors of the game, thereby giving them a better shot at winning. Controllables such as communication, hustle, drive, aggressive play, and encouragement of teammates are all examples of factors which can have significant effects on the outcome of a basketball game.

The games during March Madness are not the only ones for which focus is paramount. In fact, this idea is not at all exclusive to basketball. No matter your sport, it is advantageous to concentrate on the processes which have helped you to be successful in the past. Additionally, everyone can benefit from allowing themselves to let go of what they cannot control, because doing so frees up the mind to focus on the things which can be done to maximize success. It is a waste of time and energy to think about and dwell on how you could change something that you do not have power over. In the same light, concerning yourself only with the aspects of the competition which are within your control can substantially help you in bringing your A-game during those clutch moments. Focus is key for all of us, because if your mind is not where you need it to be, then it is very likely that your results won’t be, either.

 

Competitive Advantage. (1999, October). Staying Cool and Calm in the Clutch. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.competitivedge.com/staying-cool-and-calm-clutch

Coach’s Corner. (n.d.). 7 Keys to Becoming a More Focused Basketball Player. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.ussportscamps.com/tips/basketball/7-keys-focused-basketball-player

 

 

In a Slump? Turn to Your Team

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Slumps are inevitable. Every athlete, every coach, and every team experiences them at one time or another. They occur for a myriad of reasons: chronic injury, inability to maintain focus, or a combination of the two and more. No matter the cause, our first and foremost priority is escaping the slump. However, while doing so, many athletes press, leading them to an extended and possibly worse slump.

The Minnesota Lynx have lost five out of their last nine games. Not a horrific slump—they’re not on a nine game losing streak—but still, for a team that has been known to excel, playing below .500 is not where they want to be. Recently Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve was asked about how her team plans to improve:

“We’re going to try to keep perspective about things,” Reeve said. “We know what our challenges are. We’re working really, really hard to be a good basketball team. Every day. Every moment we spend together is a step forward.’’

Every moment they spend together is a step forward. Often in slumps we get stuck in a bad rhythm and try to pull ourselves out of it. We stay late to practice, spend more time visualizing, and do everything we can to make ourselves better. However, we sometimes forget that we are not alone in the situation. Even if the team is succeeding and individuals are slumping, we are not alone. Utilize your team. It doesn’t matter if you play an “individual” sport; you may not have “teammates,” but you have a team. You have a team of people who strive to help you reach your full potential. Leaning on other people for support is a necessity—we can pick each other up. Your team knows your skills as well as you do; they work with you day in and day out to help you improve. As the old adage goes, two heads are better than one. You don’t need to solve your slumps by yourself. Much of the work may need to be done by yourself, but you don’t need to go through them alone. Your team is there to help and support you. As Coach Reeve said, every moment you work with each other is a step forward. Next time you’re in a slump, reach out to your team. Chances are they’ve been in a similar situation and know how to help you out.

Want Lower Stress? Keep Free Rolling like Jordan Spieth

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Free RollingBy: Premier Intern Staff

 

This weekend we look to our neighbors to the east, Wisconsin, as the final men’s golf Major Championship commences. Teeing off at 2:20pm CST today in the PGA Championship include Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked golfers in the world, respectively. There has been a lot of talk about Spieth in 2015 as he has emerged as a top tier golfer and amassed the first two majors in 2015. More talk piled up as he went for his third Major Championship, the Open Championship, back in mid-July. He missed a tie for the lead by just one stroke, which would have led him into a four-hole playoff with the other leaders. Even so, throughout his tournaments following the Masters, Spieth and his caddy, Michael Greller, have used one phrase to keep them going: free rolling. In numerous interviews Spieth has credited this “free rolling” as a way to alleviate stress during the rounds.

In early April, Spieth—just 21 at the time—had won his first Major Championship and was embarking on the second. The pressure was off. He had already won one of the majors and so he had the confidence that he could perform similarly at the U.S. Open. In order to maintain his peak performance, Spieth and Greller kept free rolling—keeping themselves as relaxed as possible. This free rolling eventually led Spieth to a second consecutive Major Championship and a second place finish in the third major of the year.

Spieth and Greller’s motto is a macrocosm for any athlete in any endeavor. Undeniably, if you’re an athlete, you’ve experienced success at least one time in your life. Don’t just leave your successes in the past—use them to enhance your future. At your next practice, game, competition, etc. remember your previous successes and use that emotion to help fuel your performance in that moment. If you trust your training, visualize yourself achieving your goals, and keep “free rolling”, you may very well achieve what you’ve been working for.

Six Traits of Mentally Tough Athletes — Including the U.S. Soccer Team

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

All eyes will be on Vancouver this Sunday as the U.S. Women’s soccer team takes on Japan in their second consecutive World Cup Championship game. In order to reach the finals for two straight tournaments, we know the athletes have not only incredible physical strength, but also extraordinary mental strength. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe spoke with NPR before the World Cup began about what distinguishes the U.S. team: “I think traditionally, we’ve always been very fit and fast and physical, and we have that sort of physical element that we can just outlast teams,” she said. “And we have that grit and that mentality that we’re never going to quit.” That grit is an integral part of what has led to the team’s success—and is also an integral part of being mentally tough.

In their book, The Mental Game Plan: Getting Psyched for Sport, Drs. Stephen J. Bull, John G. Albinson, and Christopher J. Shambrook outline six characteristics of mentally tough athletes:

Strong desire to succeed

Stay positive in the face of challenge and pressure

Control the controllables

High commitment with a balanced attitude

High level of self-belief

Positive body language

From Rapinoe’s quote alone, it is easy to see that the U.S. team embodies these characteristics. The team’s determination and refusal to quit aligns with characteristics 1-5 (and if you look at pictures of the team in action, you’ll see No. 6 as well).

So how can you embrace these six skills and be mentally tough like the U.S. women? What do they really mean?

Strong desire to succeed – Why are you playing your sport? We imagine it’s because you love it and have fun while playing! Your No. 1 priority should be to enjoy what you’re doing. Then, that love for the game will transfer over to your desire to keep getting better. “Succeeding” does not necessarily mean winning the championship or being the best player on the team; rather, it’s about setting your mind to a few, tangible goals and working hard to attain them. These are progress-oriented goals—like taking a few deep breaths before you make your next pitch or becoming 5% stronger over the next two weeks. The real success is when you achieve these progress-goals throughout the year!

Stay positive in the face of challenge and pressure – Athletes of any sport, especially at high levels of competition, endure a lot of stress. Making excuses and complaining won’t help you get any better. Mentally tough athletes challenge stress head on by staying positive throughout their competition.

Control the controllables – In order to be mentally tough, you need to recognize that there are some things you can’t do anything about. The refs, the weather, the past—recognizing that there are aspects of the game out of your control will help you become more aware of what you can control. You can control your effort in practice, your attitude when you miss a rebound, and what you’re doing at the current moment, to name a few. When you focus on what you can control, you put more conscious effort into making those aspects of your game better instead of worrying about what’s out of your hands.

High commitment with a balanced attitude – Having a balanced attitude means that you need to be dedicated to your sport while also being dedicated to other aspects of your life like school, family, and friends. Enjoy your sport while you’re playing, but if something bad happens during a game or practice, don’t let that negatively affect your mood when you leave the field. Mentally tough athletes recognize that they need to focus on sports while training, but they need to be engaged with other parts of their life as well.

High level of self-belief – We all know that we won’t make every basket or catch every pass from the quarterback, but that’s ok! If you stay focused on the present moment—on the basket you’re about to shoot or the pass the quarterback is throwing right now and you say to yourself over and over that you can do this and you will make the basket/pass, then more often than not you will make the shot. If you believe in yourself, you will be able to turn those thoughts into actions.

Positive body language – When you swing at a pitch outside of the zone, do you slam your bat down in frustration or do you take a deep breath and tell yourself that you’ll get it next time? Standing upright with confidence will in fact make you more confident. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s those who realize that they can be better next time that are mentally tough and successful.

Mental training takes time just as physical training—you can’t get better overnight. Next time when you’re skating around the rink, take a few deep breaths, remember what you can and cannot control, and believe in yourself. Those quick mental skills will put you steps above your opponent—as evident by the U.S. women’s soccer team only one step away from a World Cup Championship!

 

Being A Hero in the Game

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Hero: A person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; a person who is greatly admired.

There is one minute left on the clock; the championship game for state is tied 1-1. You’ve got the ball and are dribbling down field on a breakaway for a chance to win the game. As you reach the goal, you strike the ball, aiming it directly at the upper right part of the net. If you make this goal, your team will be victorious and you’ll be given credit for making the game winning goal: a heroic action that you crave, that you have trained and worked hard for, that will be oh so sweet…

We all would love that moment of making the winning shot, putt, lap, or stuck landing for our team or ourselves and can view it as heroic behavior. This is something we train for and that is important. However, what really fuels and energizes our heroism and lasting impressions on others are the small, everyday steps and movements that often get overlooked.

Here are three vital components to help increase your ability to be a hero:

Strengths-Based Approach

Focusing on the positives of a situation is essential for moving forward toward your goals. It’s easy to get caught ruminating on your past mistakes and failures, but getting stuck in that loop can quickly become a barrier, preventing you from achieving peak performance. Acknowledging and learning from past mistakes and re-shifting your focus onto what strengths and areas you have done well with will be beneficial.

Gratitude

Within each of our own athletic careers, we are on a path to achieving a set of goals–all of which would not be doable without a set of core people. Those people can be parents, coaches, teachers, teammates, friends, sport psychologists, and/or other athletes. Research has shown that displaying gratitude to those around you increases appreciation and overall enjoyment in activities. It’s also contagious! If you are outwardly thankful to your coach, your teammates will see and hear that and others may mimic that behavior (great leadership!)

Process Goals

It is essential to become engaged in the process of the game and the smaller goals within the game rather than solely becoming consumed by the outcome (score). When we take time to set goals and concentrate on them (such as “point toes on every leap” or “arms up when playing defense”) we are able to see more progress and success within our athletic careers.

Your athletic journey will be met with many trials and tests which will allow you many opportunities to shine as a hero, role model, and leader. We encourage you to challenge yourself to see how you can expand your definition of what hero means to you and how you can be a hero, role model, and leader every day.

How can you be a hero, role model, and leader on your team, within your family, or community? Take one action step each day moving toward those goals.

The Tigers are Tamed; The Royals are Kings

By: Premier Sport Psychology

A coach of mine once told me that momentum is made up. He said all that really happens is we convince ourselves mentally that we are in a state of retreat, when in reality we are still every bit “in the game” as our opponents are. I 100% agree with him, but the Kansas City Royals may need some more convincing.

After not being in the playoffs for 29 years, the Royals have gone 4-0 in their first four playoff games. In doing so, they have secured themselves a spot in the American League Championship Series and are now just eight wins away from bringing home a World Series Championship. All things seem to be “go” for this 2014 Royals team, and if these last games are any indication, they have no intention of slowing down.

They overcame the Oakland Athletics in an extra innings battle, and then came back only a few days later to sweep the Detroit Tigers (one of the postseason favorites). In doing so, the Royals overcame three of the most dominant pitchers in baseball: Max Sherzer, Justin Verlander, and David Price–and outhit some of the best bats the sport has to offer: Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Torii Hunter. How did they do it?

The answer is simple: with a smile on their face.

“They’re all enjoying it…we get to this type of atmosphere and we’re flourishing,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said after the ALDS sweep. He wasn’t alone in the sentiment–Royals starting catcher Salvador Perez added, “We feel so happy to win the last two games.”

So how can it seem so simple yet do so much? Because in reality, it can be that simple. The influence of a positive mindset is so vastly overlooked in competitive sport, but as we can see through the success the Kansas City Royals are having, it can really make a difference. Especially considering they were up against the odds, on short rest, and playing against one of the best teams in baseball. The impact can’t be overlooked.

Give it a try sometime. Next time you need to do something, no matter how daunting it seems, tell yourself that you can be successful. Put a smile on your face while you do it. Do it again and again until it becomes genuine, and you won’t be disappointed. Change your mindset, and the results will follow.

Konnor Fleming

Teddy “GUMP”

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

If you happened to catch any of the Vikings-Falcons game on Sunday, you had the chance to see Teddy “Two Gloves” Bridgewater make his NFL debut. You also had a chance to see him throw for over 300 yards, score a rushing touchdown, and lead the Vikings to a hard-fought and well-earned home victory over a dangerous Atlanta Falcons teams.

So what’s the one word to describe Bridgewater’s brilliant debut? If you asked him, it would be GUMP.

GUMP is a nickname that Bridgewater first adopted in high school, given to him by his teammates after the copious amounts of Forrest Gump jokes and references he would make. But GUMP quickly became more than just a nickname for Bridgewater; those four letters are now a life motto that motivates Teddy each and every day.

It stands for Great Under Major Pressure and helped guide Bridgewater first through a spectacular career at the University of Louisville, where he saw tremendous on-field success. Arguably even more importantly, though, was the implication it has had on his life following his time as a collegiate star.

Heralded as one of the best available quarterbacks in the 2014 Draft Class, Bridgewater watched the big board move along farther and farther without hearing his name. To make it even worse, he had to sit by and watch other high profile QB’s, namely Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel, get drafted to teams in need of relief at the position. It was not until the Vikings made a trade and picked up Bridgewater with the 31st overall pick that his NFL dreams become a reality, and with them even more major pressure than he had ever faced in his young life.

Stepping into an organization with quarterback troubles and a lot of questions floating around about whether or not Ponder and Cassel would be able to perform, all eyes turned to Bridgewater. Here’s this first-rounder that’s coming in with the expectation that he’ll come in and help turn the franchise around. Think that’s a little bit of pressure? Chalk it up for major pressure count number one.

It was right around that point that the Vikings’ coaches formally announced that Bridgewater was going to be properly coached and was going to be given lots of time to acclimate to the culture of the NFL before seeing the field. So now not only was the weight of ‘franchise savior’ on his shoulders, but when he does finally see the field there would be no excuses for anything short of perfection. Add that to the major pressure count, number two.

Then suddenly, what seemed like all at once, the face of the franchise and the team’s best player, Adrian Peterson, was no longer a member of the team. Then, Matt Cassel seemed to flop against the New England Patriots. The packed house at TCF Bank Stadium chanted, “Teddy! Teddy!” begging for him to come save the day. Not only did Bridgewater need to come save the day, but in doing so he was being asked to become the face of a franchise in need of a hero on and off the field. We’ll call that major pressures three, four, and five.

Yet, despite it all, Bridgewater came out and led the Vikings to the victory everyone was asking for. He dominated the game on the field, and went on to handle himself as professionally and humbly as could be asked for off the field following the victory. He took every expectation of him–gathered every bit of major pressure that had been placed on him–and he was good. No, he was better than good: on Sunday, September 28th, Teddy Bridgewater was GUMP.

There are any number questions one might ask for crediting Bridgewater’s success. Did he prepare himself physically to be able to perform on the field? Undoubtedly. Did he study his playbook until he knew it like the back of his gloved hand? It sure seemed that way on the field. But what was the most important piece of the Bridgewater puzzle? It seems to be a state of mind that he has been practicing, normalizing, and optimizing since he was just a teenager; the real key to Bridgewater’s success seems to be that he believed he would be successful.

And maybe that’s the most profound lesson to learn of all. Something as simple as a mindset and a firmly held belief helped to mold Bridgewater into the NFL phenom he showed he can be. We’ve seen sport psychology techniques such as this prove to be successful already in professional football after Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks took their mindfulness all the way to the top, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. I’m sure Minnesota fans across the country will be hoping so–especially with the new stadium en route and the opportunity to host the contest in 2018.

Our advice: hop on the bandwagon now! Teddy Bridgewater has proven to be great, and has all the mental tools to be great for years to come. Where some might say the pressure will be too great to get to and win a Super Bowl in a team’s home stadium, we say to them this: If Bridgewater has been this successful already, just imagine how capable he will be faced with all of that.