| | Training Takeaways from Super Bowl LI

Author / John

“The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.” – Vince Lombardi Trophy

Super Bowl LI saw a comeback worthy of the greatest quarterback of all time. It took place in Clutch City, no less. It is hard to imagine the game time stresses Tom Brady overcame when he led the Patriots through adversity (again!), simultaneously breaking hearts while winning fan respect from both sides.

Let’s take a step back: how does an athlete prepare for impossible-to-replicate game time demands? The Margin Of Error (MOE) Factor: no one ever rises to the occasion, they fall to their level of training.

Power Athlete always considers the MOE factor when preparing athletes. And no better tool addresses this factor, and prepares them for their Moment, than heightening Body Awareness.

Body Awareness is one of the building blocks of Athleticism. When athletes step into their arena, body awareness is measured by an athlete’s ability to instinctively call upon performance traits to the magnitude required for them complete novel tasks, or put simply, their ability to get their shit done quickly, efficiently, and despite opposition.

I stood up from my chair for three unforgettable displays of body awareness, all within the 4th Quarter and 6 minutes of each other:

1. Julio Jones – 4th Quarter, 4:50 remaining, Falcons LEAD 28-20

I have the utmost respect for not only Julio Jones’ fight, but also his body awareness to make the most unforgettable, forgettable tightrope catch in football history. This catches rivals Jermaine Kearse’s forgotten catch from Super Bowl XLIX.


2. Dont’a Hightower – 4th Quarter, 8:34 remaining, Falcons Lead 28-12

Dont’a Hightower bakes on a blitz then has the mind and body to accurately jam up Ryan. Hightower also had the consciousness to recall the play, “I’d seen Matt Ryan with the ball in his hands and I wanted it, so I hit him and took it from him.”

3. Julian Edelman – 4th Quarter, 2:24 remaining, Falcons lead 28 – 20

“The Shoe Catch” = Body Awareness. Period.

Despite being impossible to replicate these exact demands in training, these athletes were prepared to claim their Moment.

How do you prepare for a Moment?

Training is a purposely chaotic environment to stress athletes in the form of physical, mental, emotional, and other creative ways to drive a response. Ask any strength coach about what training response they’re trying to drive and they’ll tell you; hypertrophy, strength, power, or speed. However, these key responses are physiological only.

Training magic truly happens when you combine the physiological with the neurological, i.e. HOW a movement is executed. If trained consistently, this stressed neurological response becomes the ingrained default the athlete engages when facing a similar or greater stress, like the Super Bowl.  The good news is that this doesn’t complicate training – you can train both physiologically and neurologically at the same damn time.

Power Athlete’s training programs target specific adaptations, but the overarching emphasis among them all is the proper execution of movements.

Building Body Awareness into Training

“That’s great, Tex.  I want to win a Super Bowl.  How do I add this in?”

easy, Four ways:

The Warm Up
There is no more greater teaching moment than this. Use this time to establish execution expectations, align the body into the default position to be challenged that day, and consciously improve their movement – all while getting their chili hot.  Multi-tasking!

Body awareness is required when the athletes perform Primal Movements among multiple axis of rotation, moving through all planes of motion – just like they’ll do on Game Day!  Challenging body awareness during the warm up will not only prepare an athlete for immediate training tasks, but will also increase athleticism through consistent practice. No program does this better than Field Strong.

Performance Training

This is your strength, speed, plyo, and power work. Much of this is performed under the highest amount of stress possible in a training environment. At Power Athlete, we never miss a chance to load up our athletes or move as fast as possible. While the athlete is moving, we’re identifying losses of posture, position, faults in execution, or other limiting factors. In person, we coach them up between max efforts, bringing awareness to their execution. Online Remote Coaching clients, the PA Crew reviews training film, provides coaching feedback, then tailors the program to attack individual limiting factors. 


Where Performance Training reinforces body awareness among maximal force demands, conditioning is where we introduce the metabolic side of sport. In the general population, stress and logic are inversely proportional. However, when it comes to sport, we need athletes operating at a high level despite stress.

While many programs allow athletes to disappear into their pain-cave during conditioning, Power Athlete brings suffering front and center. By mixing in awkward challenging movements that force reaction, we flip the mental switch on. No clock-on, mind-off training!  During conditioning, push athletes to their concentration limits while identifying limiting factors under fatigue AND duress.

There Is An “Eye” In “Team”: Mutual Accountability Training

Establish the parameters and empower athletes to own each other’s warm ups, performance training, and condo execution. This integrates camaraderie with body awareness. They are watching their teammates move, communicating effectively, and most importantly, holding them accountable for proper movement to accomplish a task…just like on Game Day. As this creates bonds, it also indirectly improves body awareness, as watching their teammate’s movement raises awareness of their own.

Empower Your Performance: Know What You’re Ingraining

Many strength coaches get lost in the minutiae of strength training or conditioning. They lose sight of why they’re applied: decrease an athlete’s margin for error and create a default of perfect posture, position, and execution of fundamentals despite a chaotic environment.

There is no such thing as a gamer. No athlete can take advantage of a moment if they are not prepared.

If you’re an athlete looking to experience these concepts in real time, get on Field Strong. If you’re a coach looking to empower athletes by turning them into mentally tough, body-aware bulletproof tigers like Tom Brady, sign up for Level One of the Power Athlete Methodology: Unlocking Athletic Potential.

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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.

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