The Mental Toughness of Tom Brady!

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By Rudi Lopez, M.A. |

“Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.” – Timothy Gallwey

Playa Vista, CA. – Sports is such an emotional event. It has a way of bringing people together, bringing out your passion, and can creating pride and at times intensity as fans defend and demonstrate their love for their favorite team. Rivalries are intense. The finals of any professional sports is exciting because you get to watch athletes perform on a big stage and under the pressure to perform and succeed.

Games like the Super Bowl LI are exciting and both stressful. People get very opinionated about who is going to win, your girlfriend or boyfriend or significant other who are not sports fans, all of the sudden are sports analyst and experts about who is going to win. There is always a know it all at the party who can recite stats all day and commentaries during the game and gives you reasons why we should believe his words about who will win. I just want to eat, drink and have dessert and watch the game unfold. I rarely chose sides, I am more focused on the players and how they perform during the game and when pressure mounts. Who elevates their game, and who fails to rise to the occasion.

During the game, events will unfold that will test your will, your heart, your mind, and your mental strength. Moments of extreme pressure, and stress can make you feel like you will breakdown or give up.  We marvel when we see an athlete do what seems the impossible and wonder what does it take to reach that level? Like wide receiver Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons who had some extraordinary catches during Super Bowl LI that displayed his focus, skills and greatness.

Leading up to the game during Super Bowl LI week, sports shows and pre game shows focused on the possibility of Tom Brady QB of the New England Patriots winning five Super Bowl’s and coach Bill Belichick willing his fifth championship as a head coach. The Atlanta Falcons who have played superbly during the regular season with their high scoring offense, looked unbeatable on paper.

Super Bowl LI was expected to be a high scoring game between two exceptional quarterbacks in Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons and Tom Brady, New England Patriots. Many predicted a high score. Many cited stats, team history, team depth charts, and experience in the Super Bowl. Many were rooting for the underdog Atlanta Falcons, and hating with passion the New England Patriots. The hatred and venom towards the Patriots was on a level of that towards other great sports organizations the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Cowboys.

The first half of the Super Bowl was completely unexpected. The Patriots went three and out on several series in the 1st quarter. After one quarter, the game was tied 0-0. In the second quarter the Falcons scored 21 points, one off a turnover, an unusual interception by Brady who was picked off by Robert Alford for an 82 yard touchdown. Brady and the Patriots offense looked out of rhythm and the defense seems to be making mistakes.  The Patriots managed a 41 yd field goal by Gostkowski  to end the half. Heading into the locker room, the Falcons 21- Patriots 3. Heading out of the stadium, many Patriots fans including hard core fan Mark Wahlberg who left at half time and missed a second half and history. Wahlberg later posted on Instagram that he had to leave the game because his son was ill. Family comes first. If people are honest, many actually thought the game was over and it was going to be a Falcons route of a great team and franchise. What people forgot and lacked in their pre-game analysis was that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are two of the greatest competitors and great minds in football.

I wish I was a little fly on the wall in the Patriots locker room, to hear what Coach Belichick or Brady said at half-time, because the Patriots were a different team in the second half. The Patriots scored  26 unanswered points in the second half, pushing the game into over time.  Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns, and James White scored on a one yard run with less than a minute left in the game, which tied the game and making it the first time in Super Bowl history of going into over time. For those watching the game on television you can’t believe what is happening. The momentum in favor of the Patriots and the greatest comeback in NFL Super Bow history happening before your eyes, or your ears on radio.

How do you explain Tom Brady’s performance after a miserable first half. You would have to look beyond the results of the outer game and look deeper into the inner game that Brady was playing. World-renowned performance coach/trainer and best selling author of the book Relentless, Tim S. Grover who has worked with championship and hall of fame athletes, said this about Brady on Twitter.

“Brady didn’t settle for legendary. Like all the greats, he reached for Iconic, and tonight he achieved it. Brady is a CLEANER.” – Tim S. Grover

Tom Brady is a CLEANER. According to Grover’s book, a CLEANER is a competitor that keeps pushing himself harder when everyone else has had enough. When in the ZONE, the CLEANER shuts out everything and focuses on controlling the uncontrollable. A CLEANER is not intimidated by pressure, he thrives on it. As the game got closer and the pressure stakes higher, you can see the affects mentally and physically on the Falcons, while the opposite was happening to Brady and the Patriots. They were getting stronger, their mental strength kicked in, they stayed focused on the next play, and making plays. The passes Brady was making were on target. Grover also stated on Twitter that CLEANERS thrive under pressure and perform at a higher level because that is what they expect of themselves. While many looked at stats, they failed to look at some key variables that influenced Tom Brady’s inner game. His mother who has been ill, was at the Super Bowl, her first game of the year. She was his WHY, maybe last game she would ever see  him play. Coach Belichick in an interview that Brady is the most prepared athlete he has ever coached and a great leader and competitor.

Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott said on Twitter:

“The Human GOAT! Now that’s Calm, Cool, Collected and Greatness!” – Dak Prescott, QB Dallas Cowboys

Michael Jordan,  Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, Conor McGregor and Serena Williams all CLEANERS who look calm, cool, collected in championship games, and perform the way they do because they expect that of themselves. The simple answer is Tom Brady despite his first half performance, did not quit, did not give up, and refused to quit playing. It’s not in his DNA to wave the white flag and give up and do better next year. Brady and his teammates dug deep, they hit the reset button, and focused on one play at a time. His teammates saw in their leader grit, his tenacity, and belief in himself and the team that they can come back and win. That motivated and inspired his teammates to elevate themselves and come together as a team.

“Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game, and an inner game. The former is played against opponents, and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against, but within the mind of the player, and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety.” – Timothy Gallwey

At the end of regulation time, the score was 28-28 and the game going into over time for the first time in Super Bowl history. The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball in overtime. Brady led the Patriots 75 yards on 8 plays to hand the ball to James White who scored on a 2 yd run to win the game 34-28. The greatest comeback in sports history secured, legacy secured, , legendary status secured, revenge secured, the win for Mom secured, and the win for 5 Super Bowl’s secured. For Coach Belichick his 5th title is secured ensuring that both he and Brady own the rights to be called the GOAT’s in coaching and quarterback. And their partnership is still not over. The comeback earned praise from newly elected 45th President Donald J. Trump:

“What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach Belichick are total winners. Wow!” – President Donald J. Trump

On Monday morning at the office’s of employees all over the country, on sports talk shows, on social media, the question was “Did the Falcons lose the game or did the Patriots win the game?” It is interesting to listen to the comments of your colleagues as they chose one of those two options. To me it says a lot about their own mindset and perspective. Many insisted that the Falcons gave the game away; the Falcons lost the game. Most people believe that the Falcons lost the game or gave it away like the Seattle Seahawks did two years ago. To the know it all’s, my guess is that they are still focused on the outer game dimensions.

You can play Monday QB all day and go over and over every play and say what the Falcons should have done and who is to blame., but as the quote by Gallwey say’s there is “an outer game, and an inner game.” The inner game was won before the Super Bowl by the Patriots who showed their mental toughness by dominating the second half, making the right adjustments and making key turnover, sacks, defensive and offensive plays that created tension, stress and an environment where Patriots players would thrive and their opponents self-defeat themselves. And as for Tom Brady, the CLEANER, it was just another day at the office performing the way he expects himself to perform.

“Brady will give credit to everyone but himself, because he believes he just did what he was supposed to do.” – Tim S. Grover

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