Did you catch Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's press conference yesterday? If so, you may have noticed he alluded several times to mental aspects of his rehabilitation. He talked about "mental reps," mindset, goals and imagery. He sure seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and knows how important it is to engage his mind as he heals his knee.
RGIII said that at yesterday's practice he and a few other injured players went through "mental reps," rather than taking actual snaps and running full-speed plays. He said doing the mental reps kept him engaged in the practice, rather than just sitting there, watching. "Practice can get a little boring when you aren't taking those mental reps, but as long as you get at least a little bit of work in, we don't feel like we're completely separated from the team." This involvement is vital when you find yourself on injured reserve. In addition to helping you to still feel a part of the team, the activity that you do engage in, even mentally, continues to strengthen the neural pathways involved in the physical movement of play. RGIII held the ball, dropped back, surveyed the field and threw the ball. He did not do any sprinting or cutting like he might have if he were in perfect health. Since there was no pressure to actually complete the pass or avoid a blindside hit, he was able to focus more on the process of decision making in the plays. He explains, "The mental rep is...basically just paying attention...It helps you by looking at it from a different perspective, so that when you get out there on the field you understand that you only need to look at this guy on this play, this guy on this play, and you go about it that way."
RGIII also knows the importance of setting goals when embarking on the seemingly endless road back to full activity. He said as soon as the surgery was over, he thought about the date of the first game of next season. He made that his goal for returning to play. He even set that date as his pass code on his phone!
Finally, he talked about his mindset as a player. While many may criticize some of the play calling decisions made in the past, we all need to remember we are dealing with a "high-caliber athlete," as RGIII referred to himself. More may be expected, but more will likely be achieved as well. He said he wasn't going to change his mindset, his will to win, but he would do a better job of making more appropriate decisions for the situation. He also talked about his emotional mindset upon his return to play. Many athletes have a nagging doubt that their injury is truly healed, or they fear that they will suffer another injury. RGIII said, "It's all about having that confidence. If you put the work in, you'll have that confidence when you get back out there on the field. It's about playing like you were never hurt." He said when he returns to play he will not play afraid. He will believe that he is invincible. His fans are way ahead of him on that one.
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
Personal Best Sports
The sports world is filled with stories of perseverance, failure and success, personal struggles and public triumph. Each story provides insight into the mental side of sport and activity.