It was February 2013. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers were about to take the field of the Super Dome to play for the greatest prize in the game of football –The Lombardi Trophy. They weren’t the only ones taking in the experience, though. Down in the tunnel, on the field, and in the stands, Russell Wilson – quarterback of the playoff-eliminated Seattle Seahawks – was also taking it all in.
"I really wanted to get a sense of how the game was going to go and how pregame was and halftime was going to be and how the end of the game was going to be…I wanted to take it all in and put myself in that situation. I asked some guys who won, Terry Bradshaw and Drew Brees, about what they did to be successful. They told me to prepare and to get your mind right.” 
Lo and behold, one year later Russell Wilson was in that exact situation. His Seattle Seahawks were about to take on Peyton Manning and the high-powered Denver Broncos for the Super Bowl; and he was prepared. He led his team to a dominant 43-8 victory over what some were calling the best offense of all time. And he credits his preparation to witnessing what the Super Bowl really was, and just as importantly, what it wasn’t.
We can learn a lot from the mental preparation that athletes like Russell Wilson go through. We all have those situations in our lives where we need to perform at our best. It may be an interview for a job, an important meeting or a big speech. With that in mind I will be posting a series of blogs on real tactics that famous athletes use to perform at their best, and how we can apply them to our lives.
SO WHAT DID RUSSELL WILSON DO, REALLY?
To Russell Wilson, the Super Bowl was an abstract thing that he had only dreamt about. He had no idea what it would look like through the eyes of a player. He had no idea what the pressure would be like, or what he needed to do to prepare. So he immersed himself in the situation.
"Coming last year and observing, that was a big help. I had never been to the Super Bowl, and I got the whole vibe. But at the end of the day, the field is still 100 yards long and 53 1/3 wide. It’s still football. First, second and third down. It’s still the red zone. The game doesn’t change that much. You have to be calm and poised and lead your guys.” 
He saw that at the end of the day, it was still football. It was a game that he had been playing for his whole life. All of the rules were the same. All of the dimensions of the field were the same. So when the time came for him to suit up for the big game, he didn’t have a shred of anxiety. It was just a game of football.
HOW CAN WE APPLY THIS TO OUR LIVES?
The biggest factor that causes us anxiety is when we build things up to be bigger than they actually are . We have no problem speaking to our friends about something we’re knowledgeable about, but give us a room full of strangers and we’re terrified. We can overcome this fear and anxiety, though, by immersing ourselves in the situation before the big performance - just like Russell Wilson. 
The next time you have to give a big speech, go to the room you will be giving. Do some repetitions, and visualize yourself in front of the audience. Simply being there helps your mind understand more about what it will be like to actually give the speech and lowers the level of anxiety. Even doing little things like ensuring that all of the technology in the room is working will help decrease your level of worry and increase your level of confidence.
You can apply this same principle to all situations where you have to perform at your best. Practice a job interview by having a friend or respected peer do a mock interview, asking all the toughest questions. Get comfortable for a sales call by talking to someone else in your office or a friend on the phone. Anything that you can do to put yourself in a similar situation will help lower your level of anxiety.
Russell Wilson wasn’t doing anything complicated when he went to the Super Bowl. He was simply immersing himself in the situation, visualizing what it would be like, and found it was just another game of football. A game that one year later, he would win.
To see more on Russell Wilson’s mental preparation, check out this video:
- Katzowitz, Josh. "A Year after Visiting the Super Bowl, Russell Wilson Helps Win It." CBSSports.com. N.p., 3 Feb. 2014.
- Mcewen, B. S. "Physiology and Neurobiology of Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of the Brain." Physiological Reviews 87.3 (2007): 873-904.
- Cooke, Gerald. "Evaluation Of The Efficacy Of The Components Of Reciprocal Inhibition Psychotherapy." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 73.5 (1968): 464-67.