Being Resilient
By Anthony Lanzillo on Dec 30, 2016

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05: Matt Birk #77 of the Baltimore Ravens prepares to snap the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Pittsburgh won 13-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Did you have a chance to watch the Ravens-Steelers game last Sunday afternoon? How many of you thought the Ravens were finally going to win that game midway through the 4th quarter? The Steelers quarterback had already thrown two interceptions and his team was behind on the scoreboard. Yet, the players on the Steelers offense showed what it takes to be resilient and how to come back to win their division in the last few minutes of the game.

One of the most important lessons any football coach can teach his players is the power of being resilient. In sports, as in life, there will be moments or times when anyone of us could find ourselves facing various challenges or difficulties, and yet, we are able to reach inside and discover what it takes to get up and keep moving forward. When you are down, and considering every excuse to give up, you uncover the mental and emotional strength to push yourself beyond your present situation. Being resilient can be the difference between failure and success on the field as well as in one’s daily life.

Throughout the football season, you want to talk to your players about the importance of being resilient, and continuing to persevere – whether the team is behind on the scoreboard, a star player has been injured and can’t return to the game or the team has lost the last four games. The team’s growth and success will be determined by how well the players can appropriately respond, mentally and emotionally, to what has happened and still stay focused on what they control – which is basically themselves. It’s all about staying mentally tough and under control when you’re in a moment when you feel like you may lose control of your emotions and become mentally weak.

At each practice, and even at critical moments of a game, you can talk to your players about the five things that they can do to stay focused and be resilient.

  • Remember why you play. Think about why you started playing football and what you love about the game. Think about all the challenges and obstacles you have overcome to become the player you are today. Think about what or whom you are playing for.
  • Reclaim your strengths. Think about all the different personal strengths you have used to serve and support your team. Think about how to use these strengths to pull yourself and your team together.
  • Reframe the experience. Think of how to put that negative experience into a positive frame of reference. Think about what you learned to become a better player. Think about how to use that experience to inspire and motivate yourself. Think about how you have become a mentally stronger and tougher player.
  • Rehearse how you want to play. Visualize and mentally rehearse how you want to play and perform. Think about specific visual and verbal cues that you can use to mentally prompt yourself to do what you want. Think about the positive feeling you will have with a successful performance.
  • Return to the present moment. Put your head and mind back into the present moment. Let go of what happened and don’t worry about what could happen. Keep your focus and attention on what’s right in front of you and the task at hand.


So, at any team practice, especially when the team is scrimmaging, you could blow the whistle to stop practice, yell out a player’s name and say “remember” – and ask the player to tell everyone why he plays football. Then you could yell out another player’s name and say “reclaim” – and ask this player to tell everyone what he considers to be his personal strengths. Or, yell out a third player’s name and say “return” – and ask that player what he needs to do to stay in the present moment. You are not only teaching your players essential mental skills in sports but just as importantly you are showing them some simple steps to becoming more resilient players.