We all want to be successful on game day, right? But, what exactly determines success when the lights are on? Furthermore, what affect does the preparation that you put in prior to the game have on playing at a high level? There are many different types of preparation, and it is important to evaluate each separately and find the right amount that works for you. In part 1 of this segment, we will go over mental preparation. Being mentally prepared allows you to play fast and aggressive, and can be broken down into two categories: understanding your assignments, and knowing you opponent.
It is not a good feeling to be on the field and not know your assignment, and this very rarely if ever leads to success. Depending on your coach, your weekly game plan can be very simple, complicated, or anything in between. However, what is consistent in all of these cases is that you are the one on the field playing, and if you do not execute your assignments, the blame will be solely on you. Therefore, before you watch any film on another team or think about who you're playing, it is crucial to know your alignments, responsibilities and adjustments on your own plays.
Every player has their own style in preparing for an opponent. Players such as Peyton Manning, Patrick Peterson, Luke Kuechly, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Larry Fitzgerald use their preparation time to thoroughly dissect their opponent, and in doing so they amplify their play on game day. Charles Woodson used a slightly different approach, and would have a few ‘nuggets’ heading into game day each week, and knew that when these plays came it was go time. Other players prefer to watch minimal film on their opponent and have the mindset that if they play well on their end, that the rest would be taken care of. The truth is that there isn’t a right or wrong answer that applies to everyone. It really comes down to your personal preference, position, level of play etc.
I have been fortunate to get to know some great football minds throughout my career. One of those is Anthony Calvillo, arguably the best quarterback in CFL history. Anthony Calvillo finished his career with 79,816 passing yards, which is more than any Quarterback in the CFL or NFL, ever. He is also one of seven Quarterbacks to throw over 400 career touchdowns, the others being Brett Favre, Warren Moon, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He is now the quarterbacks coach for my current team, the Toronto Argonauts. I asked him what his secret to being successful for so many years was, and I think it is important to share some of the 'nuggets' that he told me. He attributes his success to his ability to prepare consistently, and to do the little things that many players are not willing to do. His weekly routine was meticulous and efficient, it really illustrates the importance of mastering your own game plan, studying your opponent and merging the two. Every day he would re write his notes and the plays that would be ran that week, even if he already knew them well. He would then spend at least two hours watching film on the defense he would be playing against that week, and go through his reads on the plays in the game plan. Throughout his career, he was known for his ability to go through his reads and get the ball out extremely fast. In our conversation, he noted that he was able to do this because he had already played the game several time before game day, and that by game time he didn’t have to think.
Throughout my football career I have been both under prepared and over prepared for a game. Playing under prepared can lead to your opponent catching you off guard and missed opportunity, while being over prepared can lead to over thinking on the field. At every level I have played, I have found a lot of value in putting time in the film room. Football really comes down to a collection of 1 on 1 battles. The more you can learn about your opponents strengths and weaknesses, the better you can attack and defend against them. Throughout the week, I will find a handful of nuggets that I can use during the game. Trying to focus on too many patterns and tendencies can slow you down and can lead to ‘paralysis by analysis’.
- Robert WOODSON
RAW SPORTS CO-FOUNDER & DEFENSIVE BACK FOR THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS