It is extremely entertaining to watch the top professionals in any particular field perform their craft. Actors in a Broadway play, musicians playing in an orchestra, athletes competing in a game—watching the best in action is not only a chance to be entertained, but it is also a unique shared experience that can provide some valuable life lessons.
Take this past weekend for example: At this point in my life, I’m not particularly a football fan, but I still make it a point to watch the Super Bowl. But while I may not root for any particular team, I do enjoy watching football. However, when I watch the sport, I watch it as a fitness expert—as someone who has been a certified strength and conditioning specialist for almost two decades. This means that I am watching because I want to see the dividend resulting from the many hours invested by the athletes in physically preparing to play their sport.
What many people don’t realize is that the brief moments of explosive, dynamic athleticism we see on the field are the results of hours—nay, years—of practice and constant improvement. Any athlete playing at a professional level is competing at the elite level of his or her sport. Watching two teams in a championship game, no matter the sport, is a chance to watch the best of the best in action, which creates many learning opportunities that apply to both sport and life.
As I was watching the game, I didn’t care if Los Angeles beat New England or New England beat Los Angeles. I was watching because I wanted to watch the best American football players in the world compete against each other. And as a non-fan who makes a career out of coaching people how to move better and exercise their way to better health, here are a few of my observations from the big game that are also applicable to everyday health, wellness and fitness.
Training and practice make a difference
A player like MVP Julian Edelman can make grabbing a catch on the run before eluding a few tacklers look easy, but it’s important to realize that those few seconds of action are the result of hours and hours of practice both on the training field and in the gym. When I watch an athlete like Edelman, I think of the conditioning required to have his ability focus on making that catch before executing the moves that leave his opponents flat-footed. In addition, I admire the hours that he and quarterback Tom Brady spend working together in practice because that means each knows how the other will adjust to a situation on the field. Too often in life, we try to wing it, but the New England Patriots prove that practice pays off. If you want to be the best, you have to work for it.
Teamwork is critical
Another example of watching well-conditioned athletes in action is the battle in the trenches between the offensive and defensive lines. Anyone who has ever played on either line understands that the line is its own game within the game. (The one year I spent on my college team was on the defensive line, mostly as the scout team for our starting O line.)
It was amazing to watch the teamwork in the battle between the opposing lines, especially between the Patriots’ offensive line and the Rams’ defensive front. Together, Los Angeles’ Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald were a disruptive defensive force. But New England’s offensive line was able to successfully counter to allow Brady the time to do his thing. Yes, things may go badly sometimes, but successful teams know how to overcome one or two obstacles, like a sack or turnover, to stay focused on the primary objective.
One important theme that emerged from this year’s game was experience. This was the record-setting ninth time in 18 seasons that Brady and head coach Bill Belichick made it to the championship game and the sixth time they won it. Meanwhile, Sean McVay, the head coach of Los Angeles, was born the year before Belichick won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants (1987). When Brady, who turned 41 years old in August, started his first Super Bowl in 2002 at age 24, his opposing quarterback in this Super Bowl, Jared Goff, was only 7 at the time.
Every game is tough, but the final game is always the toughest because of the pressure of playing for a championship. Brady and Belichick have years of experience in preparing to play in 40 postseason games, which gives them a competitive advantage.
First, I need to be clear, I am not a Tom Brady fan, but it is impossible to not admire the way that he prepares for his sport and respect the fact that he is without a doubt the best to ever play his position. That said, there was a period of time in the first half when the Rams’ defense was getting to Brady; he got picked off and thrown to the ground in a relatively short period of time. In addition, the offense couldn’t seem to get in sync to put together successive plays.
Even as a casual football fan, I’ve read the stories about Brady—that what sets him apart is his relentless pursuit of preparation. Rather than getting flustered and getting down on himself or his teammates when it wasn’t working for them, Brady and the New England coaches stayed positive and made the necessary adjustments to their plan to counter what Los Angeles was doing. Mindset is having the ability to stay focused on a goal while making necessary adjustments to successfully execute a plan. Quite frankly, the Patriots are simply the best there ever was in that category.
All that aside, what I really enjoy about watching the Super Bowl is the shared experience with millions of other people. Here we all are, each with our own lives and interests, yet on one day, we come together to watch the best athletes in a sport compete against one another. Like a lot of other people, I had fun watching my Twitter feed during the game to see who commented about which play (or commercial). And let’s admit it, along with everything else learned, the biggest lesson that we got from watching this year’s game is that Harrison Ford is still the GOAT (greatest of all time).