TB12 body coach Sean Walsh may be professional in every other regard, but he can’t help but gush one what Tampa, Fl., feels like right now with the Super Bowl approaching. “It’s unbelievable, the excitement around the city, the stadium,” he says. “The town’s alive. It’s buzzing.” That the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would make it to the NFL playoffs was a long shot, but that they’d make it to the finals by the arm of its quarterback Tom Brady in his first year with the team is another. Add these both to the water cooler chatter at Brady’s namesake TB12 center, mere minutes from where the game will be played, and it rises to a whole new level.
But Walsh, a consummate professional and a physical therapist by training, regains his composure. After all, TB12 focuses not only on personal strength training but also nutrition, hydration, and, most importantly, mental training. “Stress looks like something different for everybody,” he says. Whether that’s a defensive back with preternatural vision or generalized pandemic worries, performance is about managing that stress, and the mental preparation starts well before you take the literal or figurative field.
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Walsh has broken down the seven principles that Tom Brady uses before, during, and after his games, the same which TB12 bases its mental preparation pillar. Whether you’re carrying the hopes of a city’s fanbase on your shoulders or just looking to nail your next presentation, these tips will help you reach the end zone.
First thing in the morning, before you check emails or browse Twitter, count your blessings, one by one. “If you can start your day off with just thinking positive, thinking good things will come your way, usually you’ll manifest your own destiny,” Walsh says. What in your life is going well? What are you looking forward to? It sounds easy. It sounds almost too simple. But like a balanced breakfast from those commercials of your youth, setting the tone for your day with positive thoughts is a critical part of success.
Repeated “reps,” or repetitions, are the surest way to master physical techniques, whether that’s a dependable free throw, a wicked curveball, or a tight spiral. But putting yourself in high-stress situations in your mind and working through them, even when your body is far from the event, can help you perform when your body finally gets there. “Tom isn’t going to train with a linebacker running right at his face,” Walsh says. But through visualization Brady sees himself avoiding the grasping hands. For you, maybe it’s simply swinging a golf club pain-free. “If we can take some of those mental repetitions, we’ll be prepared to handle those situations,” he say.
Sandbagging. Half-assing. Whatever you call it, the problem with giving less than your best in any given situation is that it may spill over to when you actually need to be at a hundred. So go into every task with your full engagement and effort. “If you always attack things with poise and passion and pride,” Walsh says, “see where that takes you.”
Whether it’s someone telling you you’ll never sink that putt or run under 18 minutes in the 5K, accepting, believing, and even acknowledging limitations is a shaky place to start. Buddies can mock, a partner can lovingly cast doubt, and even medical professionals can get it wrong. “But we can always try something,” Walsh says. “If we didn’t put ourselves in that situation and try to get after the things we’re looking to get after, we’ve sold ourselves short.” You may just surprise yourself along the way.
Failure, like crap, happens. You crash out of a presentation or run your first mile too fast, slowing to a shuffle by the time you reach the finish. Even with a high completion rating, Tom Brady still overthrows receivers. The best way to deal with this eventuality is to take responsibility for the mistake, evaluate the steps that brought you to it, and then make a change. “We certainly don’t want to make the same mistakes again and again,” says Walsh. “It’s not a bad thing as long as we learn from it.”
How can you be better every day, every month, every year? Brady is famous for finishing a game and then asking, “What’s next?” Celebrate your accomplishments, certainly; there’s nothing as sweet as success. But then it’s time to refocus on the next challenge ahead. “We’re not setting limits, and we’re looking forward to the future,” Walsh says. The worst thing you can do is grow complacent with where you’re at right now. Stay hungry for knowledge and self-improvement, and you’ll continue to advance.
Don’t lose the passion for what you’re doing, and never forget why you’re doing it. Let your long-term goals fuel your day-to-day. “Sometimes the road gets rocky. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want to,” Walsh says. “But you have to stay determined. Staying determined is something that ties everything together.”
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