This week, we’ve once again turned our blog over to Donovan Martin of Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based Donovan Mental Performance. Donovan and his team are doing exciting things to help athletes bring their very best to the court, diamond or gridiron. We introduced Donovan in last week’s Friday Wrap.
The Ravens beat the 49ers on Sunday in a showdown between, arguably, the NFL’s best two teams. There’s no arguing that these were two red-hot teams performing at peak levels.
In a steady rain, both teams traded blows, playing out a heavyweight matchup nearly to a draw until Justin Tucker drilled a 49-yard field goal as time expired to give the Ravens the win.
After the game, both teams were upbeat. They’d been tested. They’d delivered. Each team’s belief – and drive – were unshaken. Mentally, both were champions: two elite teams maintaining high levels of performance.
Let’s break down how they did it.
Pre-game: Excited, not intimidated
Poor mental performance coincides with anxiety or doubt. But when you’re performing at a high mental level, challenges don’t intimidate you. They excite you. That’s where both of these teams were prior to Sunday’s game.
“Anybody can be stopped,” 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said before Sunday’s game when asked whether he was worried about Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. No intimidation there, despite going against the league’s MVP front-runner.
On the other side, Ravens players welcomed the challenge. “We respect the heck out of them, because, shoot, they’re 10-1,” said wideout Willie Snead IV. “It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Peak mental performance means getting excited about challenges.
Game time: Locked in, not distracted
The highest level of mental performance happens in “the zone” – a state where distractions aren’t recognized, challenges are embraced, and peak performance happens effortlessly. Throughout Sunday’s game, even as they traded momentum-setting highlights, both teams were consistently in the zone.
Take Jackson’s big fumble in the third quarter. He kept the ball on a third-and-one and went streaking 20 yards around the left edge when he had the ball poked out via a spinning tackle. The 49ers recovered it in what seemed to be a game-shifting play.
However, Jackson didn’t let the miscue take him out of the zone. He jumped up, patted himself on the chest as if to say, “my bad,” and immediately got set to go back to work. He didn’t let it become a distraction. Eventually, he led the game-winning drive.
He was locked in.
Post-game: Focused on the process, not the result
Finally, high-level mental performance requires a focus on what’s controllable: the process of improvement. Results are secondary. After the game, both teams’ demeanors were proof of their peak mental performances.
Fans might’ve expected Jackson to be happy with the win, but the QB was actually focused on what he wanted to improve. “Horrible,” Jackson said when asked how he felt about his passing performance. “Oh, man. I was throwing passes behind receivers. . . it was ticking me off.”
The 49ers were focused on improvement, too. “Yeah, I thought it was a real good football game,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said in the post-game presser. “We knew it was going to be a very physical dogfight . . . I liked how our defense played. There’s still things they can do better.”
A focus on improvement, win or lose, is a sign of peak mental performance.
Mental Training Empowers Peak Performance
Reaching the levels that the Ravens and 49ers did on Sunday isn’t easy. Mental training can help athletes get there. Donovan Martin can teach individuals and teams how to embrace challenges, eliminate distractions, and stay in the zone with clinically proven techniques.
And, as both teams showed on Sunday, those things pay off.
For more on peak performance in the business of college and pro football, make sure to register for our free Friday Wrap.