“You just can’t blow opportunities like this. You’ve just got to take advantage of the great things when they come. It’s been a long road to get here. Some ups, some downs, but I never gave up. I kept pushing and kept believing. I always believed that I could play in this league. It’s just confidence, faith and hard work.”- Malcolm Butler
Someone once told me: in college sports, coaches win the games, and the players lose the games. In the pro’s, the players win the games, and the coaches lose the games. While every news outlet in the world may feel that this phrase is correct, I respectfully disagree.
Not because of the pass, Beast Mode in the back field, or anything the Seahawks did. I disagree because blaming anyone takes away from the amazing athleticism Malcolm Butler displayed during his single moment in Super Bowl XLIV which secured victory.
Malcolm Butler had been preparing for that moment of courageous, over-achieving display of athleticism during his entire (albeit, short) career. A Division II football player and long shot for the NFL (according to everyone but him), Butler treated every rep on OTA’s, pre-season, and regular season as if it were that last play of the Super Bowl. He had to.
There is no second chance for an undrafted rookie free agent and he did not possess the raw athletic talent to motivate a team to ‘let me him learn’.
Moments like Butler’s don’t just happen. They are forged from innumerable reps and failures that go unwitnessed. While fearlessness is born in some, it can also be bred with the right perspective and culture in the weightroom. The unexpected ‘moment’ requiring complete control, precise muscle action, and the swagger to execute needs preparation.
How to Build the ‘Moment’ into Training
Sport is a humbling beast. Often times the blood, sweat, and tears put into training do not result in victory, no matter the effort. Failure should be tasted, yet never accepted - it must be disdained.
The linear progression is the most vital tool we've witnessed in thousands of athletes following CrossFit Football’s Amateur strength template. The steady gains are nothing compared to the corresponding lessons, not only about training, but themselves. Not replicable in any classroom or pep talk from their old man, the ‘hard hat and lunch pail’ approach with this program prepares for the countless reps and perfection every coach demands from their athlete, no matter their level or experience.
Even on the day an athlete is feeling their best, the linear progression finds a way to make 3x5 feel like Big Ted is sitting on their back. Regardless, they must still execute. However, the opposite provides even more value. On days an athlete feels like shit - mentally, and physically, or both - get them under the bar. Why? They may surprise themselves. They will play their sport tired, hurt, and hungry, so help them prove to themselves they can still execute when not 100%.
How much can you know about yourself, if you've never been on a linear progression?- Tyler Durden
Clock On, Brain On
My biggest pet peeve is when an athlete disappears up their own ass when fatigued or stressed. During training, too many athletes are obsessed with the clock and someone counting for them. The ‘clock-on, brain-off’ approach is no longer acceptable. Sports, combat, and even life require the brain to be a highly functioning, decision-making machine despite stressful situations. Train accordingly.
Performance Based Testing
Testing 1RM’s leaves too much margin for error, and worse, excuses. Performance based tests such as the vertical jump, 40 yard dash, and 5-10-5 leave it all on the individual. Abandoning the numbers game is a tough pill to swallow, but after constantly witnessing the strongest guy in the weightroom becoming the strongest guy on the bench, the emphasis needs to refocus on speed and execution.
Performance tests can also be turned into competitions among teammates. Who will fall in the face of competition and who accepts the challenge? Putting athletes in a position to fail provides opportunities to execute, over-reach, and be courageous. Without knowing it, they will preparing for their Moment.
As we witnessed during Super Bowl XLIX, games are won and lost in rare moments. Thus, demand full focus during these tests, and restrict them to a single attempt. As discussed in Power Coach: Connections, pay attention to the subsequent emotions. They get one shot, regardless of the outcome. If they failed, tell them to hit the showers. If they complete the task, ask why they didn’t go for more. It's a psychology game that kills the ‘what if’ bug and trains them to own their performance. You know they’ll take responsibility for their successful ‘Moment’. Prepare them to own their ‘bad’.
I’ll end with one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard, courtesy of Dr. Squat as featured on Power Athlete Radio Episode 68:
It’s not the commitment to excellence, rather utter disdain for anything less.
Not endless hours of practice. Perfect practice. That ability to cope rather than total domination of every situation in life.
Not setting goals.
Goals are too often prescribe performance limits. And it’s not doing what it takes to win. Instead it’s a burning commitment to do what no-one has ever done before or will ever do again.”
-Dr. Fred Hatfield
We as strength and conditioning coaches are doing a disservice to our athletes by not looking beyond the numbers to prepare the athlete physically, mentally and emotionally for their ‘Moment’.
And enough about the play call. I tip my cap to the athlete who rose above the occasion and out played every label he carried into that opportunity.
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Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.
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