| | Building the ‘Moment’ Into Training

Author / John

“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

The Call Play
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.

Power-athlete-New-England-PatriotsThe Truth
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

Linear Progression
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.

Power-Athlete-Training-Monolift-John-WelbournEven on the day an athlete is feeling their best, the linear progression finds a way to make 3×5 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.

Vertical-Jump-Test-Power-Athlete-TrainingPerformance 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.

One Shot
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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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Chelseylfl on February 4, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Awesome article Tex!!
    Reading this at the perfect time for me as I am entering another LFL football season & coaching a Girl’s Flag Football Team. Games are most definitely won or lost in that special/rare ‘Moment’. Thank you for reminding me of what my responsibilities are as a coach and as an Athlete. And I can’t wait to read pieces of this article to my girls and teammates!!

  2. bernie on February 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Great article Tex!

  3. CALI on February 4, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    @mcquilkin – Well said. I’ll work on getting Butler on PA Radio so we can get his response to the article.

  4. Zigg on February 4, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Society always looks to blame because it is easy. Butler deserves the credit and at the end of the day, all he needs to do is flash the ring. Great article @mcquilkin

  5. Matt on February 5, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Awesome, is it ok to tear up when reading this?

  6. Reg Ouellette on February 5, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Reading Dr Hatfield’s quote definitely makes me want tear some shit up.

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