Football is a game that is played right on the edge of sanity by men willing to sacrifice their bodies for victory. You will not be successful at football without a certain nastiness, an edge, an attitude that will not allow you to back down or bow down to your opponent. The psychological and physical strain that this sport puts on its competitors is just amazing. Coaches frequently preach about “toughness”, but how do we define or better yet, develop toughness? I believe it is something that should be built in to every single aspect of training and must be stressed all day, every day.
Intimidating intensity is something I hope to develop in my athletes. Linebackers who don’t like to do anything but hit people, receivers who take pride in running defenders in to the ground. The vast majority of our training is explosive in nature. There is no better way in the weight room to simulate the violence in sport then through the use of the Olympic lifts. The attempt to accelerate an ever increasing external load will develop the hip power necessary to move people. When the athlete fully extends and sends 300 plus pounds flying, only to reposition themselves and catch it on their shoulders or overhead, we are also training to embrace contact and physicality. We perform sprint drills just as intensely as we lift weights. We aim to shock people with the relentlessness we run with.
Pain is a part of this game, plain and simple. If you don’t like to hurt, strain and fight, you’re probably playing the wrong game. We lift heavy weights to get strong but also to learn how to deal with physical discomfort. A heavy set of back squats does something to your body that is hard to explain. Your eyes feel like they may pop out, your legs tremble, your back gets tight, you can’t breathe….and some people love it. I need to know who those people are. Who can shake their legs out, take a couple of breaths, strap up and attack the next set even harder.
Mental toughness may be the most crucial part of this whole toughness concept. Football players must be able to focus and perform very specific tasks with complex techniques, even when they are tired and don’t feel like it. That is why it is important to make them do the little thing right everyday in training. Behind the line, means behind the line. If a particular grip on the bar, or foot placement has been taught, it must be enforced at all times. If an athlete can’t make it to workouts on time, he won’t line up correctly on game day. If he can’t take one strength coach in his face, how will he tolerate an entire opposing team and fan base? If he will quit during a tough workout, he will quit on Saturday night. We must create pressure in training so that overcoming it becomes second nature.
Genuine confidence comes from knowing you are prepared to do your best. When an athlete has been pushed hard, been held accountable, and overcome countless challenges and endless pressure in training he can’t help but take the field with a body and mindset that is ready for whatever else comes.