Tag: NFL

The Super Bowl: Playing to Win or to Improve?

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

If you live in Minnesota, odds are you know Super Bowl VII will be held at US Bank stadium on February 4th. What you may not know is the driving force behind these teams that makes them so successful. Motivation style plays a huge role in performance outcome. Is it more important to have a drive to win or a drive to improve?

Any team that has made it to the Super Bowl would say it is more important to win. What many teams do not know is that performance is linked to motivation style, and according to research athletes are more successful when they are motivated to improve rather than to win (Vallerand, 2012). Motivation purely to win can actually result in a poorer performance from the athlete due to pressure from uncontrolled outcomes.

Improvement may not be the main goal for many athletes or teams competing in the Super Bowl, however, it may be the key to victory. According to the Theory of Self-Determination, athletes perform better when they are intrinsically motivated, for example by a desire to improve, compared to being extrinsically motivated by an outcome such as wining (Cameron, 1999).

When athletes are extrinsically motivated it means their motivation comes from an outside source, such as winning. This may lead athletes to feel as though their behavior is controlled by external, material rewards like trophies, scholarships, or recognition. Therefore, their personal motivation level decreases and can lead to a loss of interest, value, and effort resulting in higher anxiety, poor sportsmanship, and decreased performance outcome (Vallerand, 2012). This being said, if an athlete plays in the Super Bowl with the mindset of wanting to win rather than wanting to improve, their performance can suffer and may cost them the game.

Intrinsic motivation is just the opposite; athletes participate in a sport for internal enjoyment and satisfaction through skill improvement and personal growth resulting in an increased confidence level, reduced stress from mistakes, and an overall higher satisfaction in the game (Vallerand, 2012). The behaviors associated with those who are intrinsically motivated are more self-determination and fulfillment in their sport (Cameron, 1999). These behaviors allow athletes to grow and improve their focus and performance without the worry of external factors such as the pressure of winning or any other outside expectations. These behaviors are related to growth mindset; the belief that abilities are developed through dedication and hard work.

The motivation style each team chooses can immensely influence the outcome of the game. Motivation is the force that drives athletes to succeed both physically and mentally and will be a key factor in the outcome of Super Bowl VII.

 

 

The Use of Psychological Profiling in Drafting

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

There is more science behind the NFL drafting process than one may think, for psychologists have discovered new ways to help coaches assess which players are more or less likely to succeed in the NFL based on the psychological and behavioral qualities that they bring to the table. These qualities are exposed by mental assessments that key in on facets such as mental speed, behavioral traits, impact traits, learning traits, and cognitive functions that would not otherwise be visible to the eye. One specific test that has assessed more than 10,000 past and current NFL players is called the TAP (Troutwine Athletic Profile) (Duncan, 2014). Used by approximately 95% of current NFL franchises, the TAP allows coaches to not only see whether a player will fit well with their team, it also compares the mental profile of the draftee with previous successful and unsuccessful NFL players, to see where they rank with regard to their overall mental capabilities (Athletic Types, 2016). Pretty cool huh?

So what kind of mental and behavioral qualities are coaches looking for based on previous successful NFL players?

One important quality picked up by the TAP is “drive”. Coaches are ultimately seeking players who continually look for ways to push and challenge themselves, not because of any external rewards that are on the line, but because they are internally driven to improve. They want players who are intrinsically motivated to train and play hard even when there is nobody watching.  Players who display this kind of drive make their teammates around them better, and create an atmosphere of integrity and tenacity both in the weight room and out on the field.

Another key quality that coaches are looking for is coachability. A player who has a high level of coachability is someone who is willing to listen to and internalize any feedback that the coach has to give. They use positive feedback to reinforce productive habits, and accept constructive criticism as a tool to make corrections and enhance their play. Because of their natural humility and openness to feedback, every bit of additional information that they can get from coach is wanted. Now, “being coachable doesn’t mean you have surrendered and don’t have an opinion of your own. It means you have the awareness, perseverance and determination to seek out someone to help you be better” (Probert, 2016).  Coaches appreciate players who are receptive to their coaching, and who readily adapt to their roles within the coach’s schemes.

One final quality that coaches are looking for in an athlete’s psychological profile is the ability to communicate effectively.  On the football field, this skill is particularly important for quarterbacks. In fact, the TAP helped the Colts select Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in the 1998 NFL Draft as a result of his promising scores in communication, focus, and preparation (Athletic Types, 2016).  “Although Ryan Leaf was the stronger athlete in many respects, he turned out to have a 10-cent emotional quotient to go with his million-dollar arm” (Haberman, 2014).  These emotional dynamics were picked up by the TAP, and helped lead the Colts away from Leaf and toward Manning, who became one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

Although there are additional qualities that could be added to this list, I encourage you to assess where you fall within these three metrics, and incorporate them into your life on and off the field.  The drive to improve, a commitment to mindset training, and the ability to listen and to learn from feedback, both positive and corrective, are deal-makers for NFL prospects.  They can be for you, too.

 

References:

Duncan, D. (2014). Hiring A New Team Player? Lessons From The NFL Draft

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodgerdeanduncan/2014/05/04/hiring-a-new-team-player-lessons-from-the-nfl-draft/#2ac87a557077

Athletic Types. (2016). About the TAP

http://athletetypes.com/about-tap/

Probert, L. (2016). What it Means to be Coachable and Why You Should Care.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-probert-mpt/what-it-means-to-be-coachable-and-why-you-should-care_b_9178372.html

Athletic Types. (2016). TAP History

http://athletetypes.com/company/

 

 

From Super Bowl 50 to–Retirement? Managing Breaks From Our Game, Both Brief and Indefinite

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

This Sunday millions of people will be huddled around their televisions with an array of jalapeño poppers and chips and guac to watch the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos (as well as the commercials). There has been a lot of talk surrounding Superbowl L as Peyton Manning squares off against Cam Newton–specifically around Peyton and if this will be his final game. Whether that is the case or just a rumor, athletes’ decisions to end their playing careers altogether or take breaks from their game are some of the most difficult decisions they must make.

There are many factors that play into deciding whether to take a break from/stop playing a sport completely—some are controllable and others, uncontrollable. A serious injury, for example, is a factor that athletes have no control over. Now, you may have control over how closely you stick to your rehabilitation process and if that injury was due to poor form, but most injuries are accidents and are therefore uncontrollable. Right after an uncontrollable event occurs, it is easy to get wrapped up in worst-case scenarios; however, we must step back and look at our situation with a lighter perspective. To help you do this, work through the following exercise:

Take a sheet of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. At the top on the left, write “controllables”; on the right, write “uncontrollables.” Think about the situation you are in and write aspects of it in the appropriate column. For example, “broken ankle” is something you cannot control, but “going to rehab and doing the exercises daily” as well as “attitude about the situation” are two things you can control. From there, think about how you can control those “controllables” in the most healthy and positive way.

Whether you are talking about taking a break from your sport, transitioning into a new phase of playing, or retiring completely, spending time thinking about your “controllables” helps you mentally shift away from negative thoughts and toward positive actions that can help you get back on the field/move forward.

 

 

What Is The Story Behind Superstitions?

If you look at any sport team, you will likely find many athletes that incorporate superstitions into their pre-game routines. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform in every game of his professional career, insisting that they brought him luck. As a five-time MVP and six-time NBA Champion, it seems there may have been some method to his madness. Crossing borders onto the ice rink, Patrick Roy, one of the best goalies in NHL history, would skate backward toward his net and turn around at the last minute before every game. He believed this would “shrink the net”. (If that’s not interesting enough, he would talk to his goal posts and thank them when the puck would ring off them!) New York Mets reliever Turk Wendell would brush his teeth in between every inning and requested a contract of $9,999,999.99 to compliment his uniform number 99. So what is the real story behind superstitions? Why do they develop? And the biggest question: do they help?

How do Superstitions Start?

Superstitions are generally developed in retrospect when athletes begin to correlate performance with unrelated events/actions during the day. When an athlete performs particularly well (or conversely, when they perform poorly) they may look back at their day and point to specific events that could have caused the outlier performance. This can be anything from a song they heard to the type of undergarments they were wearing. It is not unusual to see superstitions that involve something with little, if any, connection to performance. Things like a haircut or shaving ones legs become carefully planned out to either “help” or avoid “hurting” performance. When athletes create this “cause and effect” between events and performance they chalk up their best performances to the events preceding the competition, and try to recreate it before competition. And you guessed it; they avoid any events that happened before terrible performances.

The Downfalls of Superstitions

While many superstitions are harmless, getting too consumed by them may cause problems in preparing. When developed superstitions begin to become all-consuming and athletes “need” them to be mentally prepared it can become stressful and produce fear and anxiety. An athlete may forget to recreate the superstition or not get to it before competition and lead themselves to believe that the way they perform is then out of their control. Giving power to these events/things can be very dangerous. Severe obsessions with superstitions can start to look like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and can mentally block an athlete’s ability to perform, when in reality the superstition cannot change the outcome of competition. The way an athlete prepares, and later performs, is almost entirely in their control. Outside factors such as weather and time delays may present challenges, but it is the athlete themselves who can work through that adversity and push themselves to reach optimal perform.

The Benefits of Superstitions

When superstitions are simply habits, quirks, or pregame routines they can actually be beneficial for some athletes. Having small things that are incorporated into preparation for competition can give an athlete a sense of control and confidence. Superstitions such as eating a good meal before a game, warming up the same, or listening to a favorite song can get your mind focused and remind your body that you are preparing for competition. You may have heard the phrase that humans are “creatures of habit” and as long as the habits are healthy, who is to say they won’t help you perform better? In fact, psychology has shown over and over that if you believe a specific action or behavior will help you perform better, then you probably will perform better! This is commonly known as the placebo effect. Sport psychology encourages the use of mental preparation strategies such as visualization and imagery to help athletes prepare mentally for competition. NFL quarterback Russell Wilson uses these techniques along with mindfulness to bring his game to the next level. Zack Parise of the Minnesota Wild uses visualization before every NHL game. By imagining yourself in a high competition setting, and performing successfully, you are preparing not only your mind for competition, but your body as well.

So can superstitions really be lucky? Depending on the type of superstition and dependence on it, it seems that things that stimulate mental preparation can increase performance. Outside of that… never washing your lucky socks cannot make or break your performance, unless you believe it can. It certainly will however make for a smelly locker. You need to step back and assess what meaning the superstition has in connection with your performance. And if that meaning can propel you to the top of your game then by all means use it to your advantage. Just remember that Louis Pasteur once said “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” So prepare properly, and you will get predictable performance. Strong mental preparation will provide you the luck you are searching for.

Bethany Brausen

The Pressure Behind the Pain

Most athletes, at some point in their athletic career, encounter an injury to some extent. The intensity and duration of the injury may vary significantly from one situation to the next, but there seems to be an overriding theme to injuries. It is seemingly undeniable that with any physical injury there is a set of challenges an athlete will face, and these challenges include a mental component. Not only is it frustrating for athletes to battle back from an injury, but also the pressure to do so in a hurry makes a bad situation worse. USA Today released an article that tackles this topic from the standpoint of an NFL quarterback. It could be argued that the most important position in football is the quarterback. If you do not agree with that, you could most certainly agree that they are at least one of the top most important positions. Tony Romo, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, currently faces the physical and mental challenges presented with an injury. Romo took a painful knee to the back that caused a great deal of pain to a location that is injury-prone already. After taking a pain killing injection, he returned to play in overtime. Coach Jerry Jones relayed the message that Romo was facing a “function of pain tolerance” and that “nothing medically would prevent him from playing” in upcoming games. Knowingly or not, coach Jones put a substantial amount of pressure on his quarterback for his teammates, fans, and all of the NFL to hear.

In any situation of physical injury, the dependence on physicians and athlete’s collaboration in final decision-making is crucial–regardless of sport, age, gender, or position. The philosophy behind this opinion is rooted in one single fact: the athlete is the only one who knows how they feel, and physicians are the ones that are able to help them determine what is best for their health. This pressure is placed on athletes of all ages, whether it is parents pushing them back in the game or coaches questioning their toughness. In reality, toughness may have nothing to do with it. You may have the toughest person in the world, but even they would not be able to play a game of football with a broken leg. The challenges that injuries present are great enough, but to add additional pressure on an athlete to return can have countless bad outcomes. So how do you help an athlete through injury?

Ask them questions–and genuinely care to hear the answers.

Most athletes that struggle with injury appreciate someone who cares to see them getting better. By asking them how their recovery is progressing and if there is anything you can do to help reminds them that they have a support system.

Be conscious of your judgments.

It is natural to make judgments in any situation. It is what helps us interpret the world around us and the opinions we have about it. The ability to recognize yourself making judgments and to determine if they are justified is a great skill. In this case, know that you may have an opinion about an athlete and their injury, but at the end of the day you are not inside their body and mind.  No one can tell someone else how they feel.

Alleviate the pressure, do not apply it.

The last thing athletes want is pressure to get back in the game. More often than not, the athlete wants more than anyone to be back in. Reminding them that they are missing out on the sport they love is of no help. Allow them to process the injury without convincing them that they are weak. If anything, remind them that there is no pressure in rushing back. Ironically enough, this might get them back faster.

These small skills are a few that can be useful when encountering those dealing with injury. The next time you encounter an injury, whether it be your own or someone else’s, remember to practice being conscious and not critical. The pain of injury is enough in itself–look to help heal it, not hinder it.

Bethany Brausen

 

Teddy “GUMP”

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.

 

 

Seattle Seahawks Team up with Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

When Pete Carroll was fired by the Patriots following their season in 1999, he had only one option: to move forward.  Carroll did just that and came away with a whole new frame of mind. He’s been with the Seattle Seahawks since 2011, and so has Mike Gervais, a high-performance sport psychologist. Both men understand that winning a game or building a successful team isn’t just about what happens on the field. In a “suck-it-up” NFL culture where players are all too aware about their personal well-being and lives being uncared for, they’re bringing a softer side to football. The idea is that happy players make for better players.  And that idea works.

Focus on the mental training and needs of the players through meditation sessions where the players are encouraged to be introspective and visualize their goals is hugely important. “Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice,” Russell Okung (Seahawk Offensive Tackle) says. “It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”

Dedicated to the mental well-being of their team, Carroll and his colleagues pride themselves in finding players with positive attitudes. If you take one look at their Quarter Back, Russell Wilson, you can see the success that it has brought to their team. “I truly believe in positive synergy, that your positive mindset gives you a more hopeful outlook, and belief that you can do something great means you will do something great.” This is nothing but the truth from Wilson. He’s known for setting goals and records alike; achieving and even surpassing them. In 2012, his first year in the NFL, Wilson led the Seahawks to the playoffs; one of only 6 rookie QBs in NFL game history to win a playoff game. He finished the regular season ranked #4 in NFL passer rating and tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdowns scored by a rookie. To top it off, Wilson has even started his own charitable organization: The Power of Mind Foundation.

The “experiment” going on in Seattle may have other NFL teams scratching their heads, but the goal is to change the way that the football franchise approaches the well-being of the players. There’s a public stigma about psychologists: in order to work with one, something has to be wrong. Fortunately, the Seahawks are paving the way in proving that this idea holds little value.

Full Article: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9581925/seattle-seahawks-use-unusual-techniques-practice-espn-magazine