Here are several keys to a football player being successful in my opinion, and I would like to share a few.
No matter what size, speed, or strength you have, if you can slow the game down with your mind, you will always be 1 step ahead of everyone else. I was never the fastest, strongest, or biggest, but often times I was one of the smartest. I would study and break down film and offenses and their tendencies that I could mentally know the options they could run in any given situation. I knew the routes the receivers ran, the stances the tight ends preferred, and the way the shoulders moved on the quarterback. So when the quarterback began his passing motion, I was already breaking on the ball regardless of how fast the receiver was. Study the game and pick up a step!
There’s just something about instinct that’s hard to describe. It’s an intangible trait that is impossible to measure on paper. Instinct requires repetition. You must take your conscious thoughts and repeat an action so many times until it becomes natural. When it becomes natural, it will become second nature. When it becomes second nature, it will happen without you controlling it…and that is instinct. You want spectators to ask you, “how did you know that was going to happen?” or “why do you always seem to be in the right place at the right time?” It’s not luck, it’s instinct that was developed over years of repetition both physically and more importantly, mentally.
Development of skills
Everyone is born with some God-given talents. I was blessed with them, some others aren’t so blessed…that’s just the way life goes I guess. However, everyone does have talent in some way, shape, or form. Your job, is to discover your talents, and develop them with skills. Someone who wasn’t born with a fast 40 yard dash like myself has to develop speed and find ways around my talents, or better put, lack of talents. I had to study running and mentally make my stride more efficient. I had to think about how to back-peddle before I could get good at it. I had to watch others, get coached, and spend hours in front of a mirror watching my form before it became a skill. Get to know your talents, and develop them with skills.
True leadership isn’t given because you’re the best on the team. True leadership is born out of a desire to be a leader that others want to follow. True leaders take more time and care supporting the worst player on the team rather than making fun of them. Leadership is exemplified by a guy who does it first, does it the hardest, and does it the most consistent. You can tell when guys are being fake, but when a true leader appears, you know it. A leader is the first to stay after practice and the first to arrive. A leader is the one who may not lift the heaviest weight, but pushes his own limits. A leader isn’t just when others are watching, but a leader is born in the weight room long after his teammates have left and gone home, there’s just something about that leader that makes you want to follow.
Good hands and loose hips
If there were 2 practical skills to develop it would be these 2. No matter what position you play other than kicker (those don’t really count), you will need good hands to succeed. A lineman better be able to use his hands efficienty in a blocking scheme. A linebacker better use his hands to get off the block. A receiver better make the catch and a defensive back better not miss an opportunity to intercept a ball…that last one is crucial to me…for obvious reasons.
The other thing you must develop is your hips. You must be able to rotate, turn, maneuver, andmake clean breaks for whatever position you play. Often guys can run fast in a straight line, but atrue football player can move in any direction at any time, and be full speed within a step. Develop your hips to be able to change directions without slowing down and you can never be avoided.
Consistent with big play potential
Coaches like big play potential, but almost every one of them would rather have consistency if they had that extreme choice. So a true football player is both. They are consistent on every play and limit bad plays, but they have enough potential to make big plays as well. One thing I believe helps make a consistent player is having the mentality to “never make the same mistake twice.” You will make mistakes and that’s okay, but make it a point to never make that same mistake in that same situation again. Lock it in your mind and replay it 10 times before it’s assured to never happen again.