One of the tough’s positions to play in sports is the quarterback position.
As I watch the college football season wind down, many of the commentators remark on different quarterbacks. The statements go something like this; “he’ll make a nice pro” or “he’s has a future at the next level.”
Some of these kids play for big time programs like, USC, Ohio State, and Florida to name a few, however quarterback is one of the toughest positions to make it to the next level. These players play for the major programs and all you hear about are the physical skills. That kid will make a nice pro because he is big, and has the height, or the arm.
While it makes playing at the next level easier if you have all the physical skills, what really makes a quarterback at the next level is his mind, his mental game for football. In the pros almost everybody is bigger and faster. The player has to have the mental makeup to compete at the highest level.
What makes a big-time quarterback is his ability to excel at the mental part of the game. A quarterback has to have the ability to anticipate and respond quickly to what opposing defenses are trying to do.
Here is what a Super Bowl QB had to say.
“I don’t want any unknowns. I don’t want any guesswork. When I go out onto the field, I want to know exactly what we’re going to do versus every defense we could face,” he says. “And when I feel like I’m prepared like that in my mind, I feel like it’s just execution from there, and if I can go out and execute and that’s the stuff I work on, then we’re going to do exactly what we set out to do.” ~Tom Brady
Brady wants to have a plan going into every game. A good player mentally prepares endlessly by looking at video, and studying films of the opposing teams different formations. He is trying to anticipate all the mental challenges and formations a team will throw at him. This could be corner blitzes, dime packages, nickel packages, and two deep zones. The QB has to understand every way that a team will try to defend him. As Mr. Brady says, “I don’t want any guesswork…”
If he knows what to expect he can develop strategies to successfully counter what the opponent has in store. When a player feels prepared and can “predict” what is coming, his confidence increases. He knows what to expect and is confident in how to react to the situation.
There will probably be visual triggers that will tell Tom which type of defense he should expect. Some of the triggers will be the personnel packages that he sees. Certain players, like linebackers and defensive backs will come on and off during package changes. These are excellent visual cues to what type of defense a quarterback should expect. If the quarterback has mentally prepared he can anticipate what defense he will see. Tom also says, “I am prepared in my mind.” Tom is touching on visualization.
When Brady is behind center he looks at the defense and visualizes the play call. If the play that is called won’t work because of the defense, he calls an audible (changes the play call). When changing a play, the quarterback is switching the play to one he quickly visualized succeeding while looking at the defense.
Visualization is the ability to create clear, detailed and accurate images in your mind, of events that you want to create as physical reality. This is a skill that the best athletes employ to help them imagine what challenges they will face. The ability to visualize a play or outcome before it happens.
In our football example, let’s say the call is a run. Brady sees double coverage on his left, with the safety over to help. The other safety is supporting the run and close to the line. He has single coverage on his right. Tom visualizes his receiver on the right making one move on the corner and completing the ball for a thirty yard pass. He can change the play to a pass.
This is a very simplistic example, however not ever quarterback has this ability. Some players can’t visualize, some can’t anticipate, and others can’t’ cope with different defensive looks. Being able to change the play, and change it to the right play is a highly prized skill. This part, the mental game separates the physically gifted college quarterbacks from the real pro prospects.
Here are four tips to help you anticipate and cope with pressure situations
- Do your homework. Make sure to review the game plan. Watch video of the opposing team, or a game.
- While doing your homework watch for visual cues. Things that may tip off what an opponent is going to do. This is more prevalent in team sports, however does have some merit in individual sports as well. Individuals are creatures of habit, and will tip off what they are going to do next. You just need to isolate and find the visual cue.
- Visualize. You are now prepared mentally and have seen everything the opponent will do. Visualize yourself and your team succeeding against each and every strategy. Picture it in your mind. See it, Do it.
- Have confidence. You have seen the film, you are mentally prepared. You know how to react to any situation as you have prepared for all. Believe in yourself and your team.