Inside Russell Wilson’s Brain

Mental visualization is an extremely powerful tool your athletes can use to improve their performance.   Just this week Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson had this to say about using mental visualization as part of his game preparation:

“It [visualization] definitely translates in playing quarterback. It’s trusting myself and trusting what you see. When you’re playing quarterback, things happen so fast, especially when you’re playing a good defense like the 49ers.”

wilson trophy

Wilson says he tries to tries to envision every possible scenario in his mind and how to react to it if it comes up.

“I really believe it helps my game, and also, calms me.  I’ve already been there 100 times throughout the week, knowing those situations throughout every single play and different situations; end of half, end of game, third-down situations.”

“I anticipate those situations before they happen. That allows me to make quick decisions. I think it also gives me that sense of poise and grace under pressure. I really don’t worry too much. I trust my teammates, I trust the calls, I trust myself more than anything, and so I just go out there and play the game of football.”

For Wilson, it’s about believing in what you’ve already seen, on the field or in your mind.

“You drop back, hit your fifth step and you make a decision,  It’s either yes or no, and you make that decision and you just trust it. I think that’s what allows me to play fast.”

Here is how we taught the process of mental visualization to our athletes.   As with all things, the more our athletes practiced mental visualization, the better they became at using it, and the better the results.

  • Take ten minutes, in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
  • Take a defensive call, or offensive play from our game plan this week.
  • Picture yourself making the “perfect play”, from start (the call in the huddle) to finish, against this week’s opponent.
  • Involve all of your senses – in the first person.  You are not watching a movie of yourself making the play.  You are seeing it, hearing it, smelling it, feeling it, with all of your senses.
  • Think and phrase in positive manner – Thinking about “keeping your feet when making a great cut”, as opposed to thinking about “not slipping”.
  • See a clear detailed picture in your “minds eye
  • The more detail the better.  Smell the grass, feel the ball against your ribs, hear the crowd, feel the emotion.  The more senses you involve, and the more realistic you “paint” the picture, the more it will imprint.
  • Enjoy, feel, and experience the feelings and emotions that will be evoked when making the “perfect play

Although many of our athletes often scoffed at the notion of “mental practice” when we first began this process, it was always satisfying when those same athletes would tell us after a game that a particular play was “exactly like I visualized it this week!

Jeff Floyd –

The Negative “Voice” II

Yesterday I completed my 8th (or 9th ?) road race since I had my hip replaced last year, the Amy Thompson 5K ,which benefits traumatic brain injury. Every race I learn something new about training, especially the mental aspect of it.

Yesterday two things happened at the beginning of the race that mentally tested me.

  • The 5K began with a steady uphill grade over the first mile
  • Many more people were passing me than normally do in that first mile.

brain-powerMentally dealing with the uphill start was no problem.  The day before I had put the route into RunKeeper (see Apps for the Coach) and knew that, although the first mile was slightly uphill, once I made it to the halfway point, it was going to be a steady flat or downhill run to the finish.  I was prepared for that situation.

Dealing with the negative thoughts of everyone passing me up was a different story.  It was unexpected… I was not prepared for it.  Negative thoughts were pouring into my brain… “I must be running really slow”,  “This rain is really effecting me”, “I am tired already”… My legs felt heavy; I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath, I was questioning the decision to run a 5K in the pouring rain.

At the 1-mile mark, my pace (thank you RunKeeper) was the same or slightly better than what it normally is.  I made it to the 1.5-mile mark, and the remainder of the race was figuratively and literally downhill.  I finished with one of my better times.  So I had to question, “What was going on with all those people passing me at the beginning of the race?”

Here is what I was not prepared for, what almost sabotaged my run…

Normally, at the start of most 5K races, you line up in “waves”, based on what the mile splits you run in a 5K…. all of the 7 minute mile runners are at the start, followed by the “wave” of 8 minute per mile runners, etc…  I typically am brutally honest in the wave I line up in… probably lining up with a group of runners that are actually slower than what I run.  This is why (I figured out after the race) that in previous races, few people are passing me up, and I am doing most of the passing at the beginning of the race.  In yesterdays run, because it was pouring rain, the participants were not lined up in waves.  We all just literally got to the starting line and the race began, which meant there were many good runners starting behind me that typically would start in a “wave” in front of me… so at the beginning of the race these were all zooming by me.

Here is my takeaway from all of this.  Prepare the best you can… it will help you deal with all of the foreseen events that come your way during competition…. like knowing the first mile of the race will be uphill.  But, in order to deal with (mentally and physically) unforeseen situations that come up, your preparation must be complete.  If you have done everything in your power to prepare for a race (or game, or match) then you will have the true confidence to deal with unexpected road blocks that are thrown at you… anything less is just bluster (see Confident vs Cocky).

While I have trained to run these races, I know in my mind I have not done everything that I could.  For me, it is not the same preparation that I go through when preparing for a football contest, or preparing for a classroom presentation… nothing can sway my confidence in those situations.  But, when something unexpected happens in a run, because I am not thoroughly prepared, it is easy for the negative thoughts creep in and a downward spiral begins.

Guess I need to Do More!

Jeff Floyd –