Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Mental vs. Physical

Posted by admin August - 12 - 2011 - Friday

I touched on this a little one time before but I wanted to comment on “making kids tough.” In many ways, players come to us at the HS level with a developed toughness. A lot of it is cultural. Kids develop toughness early in life based on the over-all attitude towards the normal bumps and bruises a child experiences.
The next encounter is that first time playing football in the backyard. They hit or get hit and the initial reaction is either “this is fun” or “Ow… I don’t like that.” Finally, the first experience of organized team football when they put on pads and have coaches (hopefully) instructing them on the proper techniques of tackling. I think it all culminates there. That first one on one hit with pads on tells a boy a LOT about whether he is going to enjoy contact or it’s something to avoid! The classic “fight or flight” mechanism that God put in all of us.

We had our first live hitting drills on Wednesday. I did not know what to expect. We are perceived as a typical upper middle class, predominantly white, private academy football team. But, I had seen a lot of our players participating in lacrosse games last spring. I saw the aggressive nature in them. So, here is another way to build toughness: get them involved in another contact sport. I thought wrestling was a great cross-over for football (and it is); but now that I’ve observed, and become a fan of lacrosse, I think that it is even better. Why? The players are on their feet, running around and dealing with contact throughout the game.

So we did 1 on 1 hitting drills for 15 minutes and I was amazed at the aggressiveness of our players. They were fighting to get into the drill! Nobody “hid” in the back— everyone wanted a turn. There was sincere disappointment when we ended he period. I thought later: why did these kids have the “it” for enjoying contact when teams I’ve coached in the past… a number of the kids came out for football but did not seem interested at all in the contact involved? I think I answered my question earlier in this post. Most of our players grew up in a well-organized and well-coached Pop Warner league. Probably 90% of my varsity players are lacrosse players. They have been exposed to contact since they were young and have learned to enjoy it.

Soooo… the physical toughness is something I think you can only nurture in a teenage boy. It’s already instilled by high school age. Where you can improve his toughness is the mental aspect. If you can create a mind-set in your players that they have to overcome obstacles through self-discipline and “mind over matter” then you’ve got a chance to develop the physical toughness that comes with it.

I related in my book how you can start working on this mental toughness in the off-season in the weight room. Challenges and competitions to build mental toughness should be part of your weekly… even daily… work-outs. Once pre-season practice starts, you continue to feed their mind with positive thoughts. I ask them to run everywhere. We don’t walk. I ask them to stand up when they are resting between sprints. “Be able to look your opponent in the eye. Don’t show him you are tired.” Compliment your players when they show toughness. We are NOT talking about abuse here— just trying to change a mind set that many young people have today. Football is a violent, aggressive, full contact sport. Only the strong (mentally AND physically) will survive… and thrive!

One Response to “Mental vs. Physical”

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