Eagles fans everywhere are rejoicing after their first ever Super Bowl win. It was a season full of emotions for fans. They went from high hopes early in the season as their franchise quarterback proved to be talented, resilient, and a force to be reckoned with, to their high hopes being crushed as they watched Carson Wentz suffer a season ending injury. Many believed their Super Bowl dreams were done. There was no way their back up quarterback could step into the hole that was now left on their offense.
Filled with doubt, Eagles fans watched the first game they faced without their quarterback. However, luckily for fans, the backup quarterback was not filled with doubt. As he proved each game, his mentality was strong. As a result, his performance improved game after game as they marched their way towards Minnesota. In an interview after his final victory, Nick Foles talked about his path to the Super Bowl as it related to his thoughts and his questionable future. During this interview, he highlighted two major factors to mental toughness and optimal performance: Mindfulness and Embracing Failure.
Mindfulness In an earlier blog post, I spoke about the resurgence of mindfulness and it's impact on the sports field. All to often, athletes get caught up in the hype of the future (or the impact of the past); however, as discussed previously, being present minded is imperative for optimal performance. While that post spoke mainly to the thought process during the actual athletic performance, being present minded is just as important when the game clock stops.
"I'm grateful and content in this moment... I'm not worried about my future right now". This was the response Foles gave when reporters asked about his future with the Philadelphia Eagles. An exciting and momentous event could have easily been overshadowed by fear and/or anxiety for an athlete who is unable to stop and be present. Accept things for the way they are without judgment. It is by this method that an athlete is able to watch experiences as they happen without clinging onto them and overthinking. Attention can then be paid to the athlete's performance versus distracting and negative experiences, such as fear, anxiety and doubt.
"I'm just living in this moment", Foles expressed. Athletes everywhere should embrace this statement and reflect each day as to whether they are doing the same.
Embracing Failure Everyday I work with athletes who beat themselves up for mistakes they made in their sport. In their mind, this mistake defines them and their talent. Weakness. Failure. That is all these athletes can see in that moment. However, without mistakes, how does one grow, not just as an athlete, but as an individual? It is not the mistake that defines us, it is how we respond to the mistake that does. I work with my athletes on how to process their mistakes; focusing mainly on the steps necessary to correct the issue the next time they step out onto the field/court/mat/etc. Past blog posts address this debriefing process and the reasoning for its importance.
So why are athletes so hard on themselves for a simple error? Doesn't everyone make errors, even the professionals? Foles addressed this beautifully when he discussed the present society's need to highlight only the good and their successes. Twitter, instagram, and other social media forums are often a false reality, but those who look at those outlets sometimes become blind to the fact that not all is as it appears on the surface. Take Foles for example. On the outside, we may see only success- perhaps even success that appears to have come easy. However, Foles stated, "I'm not perfect. I'm not Superman. We might be in the NFL and we might have just won the Super Bowl, but we all have daily struggles...Failure is a part of life. It's a part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn't be up here if I hadn't fallen thousands of times, made mistakes. We all are human. We all have weaknesses."
The focus shouldn't be on the fact that we fell, but instead on what we did to pull ourselves back up- how we overcame the weakness and succeeded despite of it. "When you look at a struggle in your life, just know that it's an opportunity for your character to grow," Foles stated.
Don't be afraid to fail. Embrace it. Learn from it. Be better because of it.
When you look at yourself as an athlete, do you have a winning mentality? Do you possess the strengths discussed above or is this your opportunity to grow?
NFL looking into hiring Sports Psychologist?
February 2, 2013
The Locker Room Magazine featured Dr. Hennessy's article : The Zone