Drew Brees broke two NFL records on Monday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts. He completed 29-30 passes (for a record 96.7% rate) on his way to passing Peyton Manning’s mark for career touchdowns (Brees now has 540 total TD’s). It was the perfect follow up to an Instagram post from earlier that day by one of Brees’s former teammates, Reggie Bush.
Bush shared this video of Brees at the Saints’ practice facility rehearsing plays solo well after the rest of his teammates had gone home. It’s a powerful video and commentary (check it out!) that gives the behind-the-scenes “HOW” to his record-breaking game and historic career. These two lessons jumped out to me:
It’s lonely at the top: In the video, Bush says, “Ain’t no shortcuts to greatness. This is what it’s about here. Only one man out here on this field…A lot of guys want to be great. A lot of guys aren’t willing to go the extra mile….not willing to go to the depths, to the point where you gotta be by yourself. Sometimes you need that quietness, that peace, to get your mind right.” Drew Brees is already a Super Bowl Champion. He’s part of a small minority who’ve reached the pinnacle. Even more rare — he’s stayed at the top. Brees is turning 41 next month and in his 19th NFL season! There’s nothing an opposing defense could throw at him he hasn’t seen before. But there he was all alone on the practice field preparing for the competition with imagination and laser focus.
Get your mental reps in: Athletes spend hours every day getting in their reps on the field/court and in the weight room. They develop their skills and build their bodies. Everyone puts in that type of work, but far fewer get in their mental reps. It’s a higher level of preparation. One thing that stood out to me in this video — Brees has no ball yet he’s still licking his fingers for grip. He is so engaged in the moment, visualizing what will happen; his habits unconsciously kick in. When I practiced visualization before games, I tried to picture as vividly as possible what I’d face in the upcoming game. I went through all the different scenarios I could imagine, and (in first-person) envision myself making plays, being assertive and experiencing success. I’d also see myself overcoming adversity. No performance is flawless (even Drew Brees didn’t connect on that one pass!), so it’s important to prepare for challenging situations and mentally rehearse positive responses to those obstacles.
I now prepare mentally prior to meetings or talks. I see myself having great body language and speaking with both humility and confidence. While my contexts may be very different, the practice of visualizing is still beneficial. In fact, it’s likely even more important now as I find myself in new-to-me environments on a daily basis!
Do you get your mental reps in? If so, I’d love to hear anything specific you do to prepare, practice or rehearse.
Explore Further: This past summer, Drew Brees won an ESPY for another record breaking performance (all-time passing yards). In his acceptance speech he said (5:50), “Gratitude, humility and respect…the three greatest qualities you can have as a human being…it’s amazing that sports will teach you things like (them).” These virtues were evident in his speech and in watching him take his mental reps. That level of focus and preparation demonstrate respect for the game and his opponents. It also displays humility, that despite all his success, he doesn’t cheat the process or feel entitled to automatic success. And at 40 years old, there’s no way he’d still be doing these things if he weren’t grateful for the opportunity.