Tony DeMeo

Zen and the Art of Quarterbacking

How does Zen help anyone play Quarterback? Where does the connection come? How does an ancient Eastern religion affect a modern western sport?

The answer is simple. To be a master at anything requires a combination of mind, body and spirit. No one achieves excellence, let alone mastery without this combination. It is only through the process of mastery that sport becomes an art.

The key to mastery of sport is the control of the spirit. Everyone knows basically the physical skills required but what separates the master from the rest is his control of his spirit. Regardless of whether its Joe Montana or Muhammad Ali; they have control of their spirit.

This is even more important when directing the Triple Gun Offense, because the Offense revolves around the Quarterback’s decision making. He is not only responsible for his own mechanics but he must distribute the ball and put our team in position to be successful. This increases the stress level for the Triple Gun Quarterback above the level for most quarterbacks. So using Zen and relaxation techniques increases the performance level of the Triple Gun quarterback. It relaxes the mind and enables the Triple gun quarterback to make better decisions.

The single biggest destroyer of performance is fear of failure. Thinking about what you are afraid might happen, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative thinking leads to stress which leads to tension which leads to mistakes which circle back to more negative thinking. Before you know it your Quarterback is on a downward spiral to a poor performance.
Superstars have figured out that you can’t be winner if you are afraid to lose. Great players hate to lose but never fear losing. Masters know that no one is perfect and that an error is part of the game. If you make an error – get over it and get on with it. You can’t change the play that just happened so you must focus on the next play. Freedom from the fear of failure liberates a quarterback to get into a state of “flow” or “the zone”. The following are some tips for getting into a state of relaxed concentration:

1.Have a pre-game ritual. Listening to certain music on your IPOD or using some deep breathing or whatever relaxes you prior to the game.
2.Always give yourself positive encouragement through your self-talk. Have some positive affirmations that prepare you for the game.
3.Prepare a positive reaction to any setback that occurs in the game. Poise over panic. Masters never get lured into the “I gotta” mode. They maintain a positive mental attitude.
4.The great ones never lose; time just runs out.

Some characteristics of top performers are:

1.They react to the challenge not the menace.
2.They expect success. They have the realistic belief that they will succeed.
3.They set goals for the future but only focus on the task at hand. They forget about future goals during the game and focus only on the present play.
4.They always focus on the process and not the result. The Masters’ scoreboard is internal.
5.They savor the moment. They love the battle for the sake of the battle. They never tie their self-worth to an outcome.

Zen controls the spirit by letting go of the spirit. You gain control by losing control. You achieve the greatest results when you completely forget about results. By using the principles of Zen you can free yourself from the prison of results and get on the path to mastery. Only by removing your ego from the contest will you reach your optimum level of performance. Zen extols intuitive action which is the critical component of mastery. By eliminating the fear of failure you open the door to a higher level of performance that comes from your intuitive ability. The basic principles of Zen in regards to football are:

1.Intuition is more important that intellect.
2.Intuitive skills are developed through quality repitions.
3.Intuition is gained by letting go of self and by learning from experience.
4.Mastery is a process that is ongoing not a product.
5.Always perform in the present. You can’t change the past nor can you predict the future. Enjoy the day.
6.Focus on the NOW.
7.Conquer haste. Patience is power.
8.Even a tornado has an inner calm. Always maintain an inner sense of peace.
9.Only improve yourself, never compare yourself or concern yourself with your opponent.
10. Be unshakable. Poise is a part of mastery. It’s always your choice how react to a circumstance. You are in control of your response.
11. The greatest warriors are patient and wait for their moment. They are poised and ready like a coiled snake and strike quickly.
12. Let go and let flow. Trust your training.
13. That which is flexible will triumph over that which is rigid. Old trees snap off during strong winds while flexible trees sway with the wind.
14. Take your ego out of the contest. Your self-worth is not at stake. No ego helps intuition flow.
15. Training replaces intellect with intuition. The less thought the greater the performance. It’s not what you know; it’s how fast you process information and respond. Be intuitive, instinctive and immediate.
16. A focused relaxed mind has no limit.
17. Open your mind to learning by quieting your ego.
18. Anticipate fulfillment.

These are some ideas I picked from a study of Zen. Using Zen to quiet your mind is a great way to create a relaxed state to bring your performance to a higher level. I always want my Quarterback to be in a state of relaxed focus so he could play fast and loose free from fear.