Behind the physical exertion that goes along with NFL football games, an often silent, more intimidating opponent faces the contenders of the Green Bay Packers. Sport psychology is an intense and real element to each and every game, one that the coaches and training staff focus on behind the limelight of the weekly games that we all herald.
Sports Psychology is actually a complex science, focusing on how psychological factors affect team performance. Mental focus and ability is one of the most pivotal parts of any game, and without that strength of mind, confidence and resulting performance will be lacking.
Wrapped up in the ever-constant battle of physical brute and talent is a head game that wars silent on the field. What exactly is behind this, and how do the Packers hold an edge over their competitors?
Merely setting foot in Green Bay and on to the Frozen Tundra is the beginning of a tough course of mental intimidation which is sure to greet any Packer opponents.
Home to some of the NFL’s most enthusiastic and animated fans, this open dome has sold out every seat since 1960. Don’t even dream of getting season tickets in your lifetime, the waiting list is estimated at 955 years long for these fanatics.
One of the only franchises without a cheerleading squad, the Pack is lacking nothing with what is known as the G-Force behind them, nearly 73,000 screaming and supportive fans. One walk past the Tundra Line outside of the stadium, the Packers heart-pounding new drum corps, and the competition will see quickly why there is no need for an additional cheer squad to get the Pack,and the fans, going before the game.
As the only publicly owned team, we can see why there is reason to celebrate. This team truly is “theirs” in the truest sense, and one they will go to great ends to support.
Challengers know that Green Bay is riding on inertia right now, and history shows that is a powerful force behind them. Lambeau Field is well-known on its own for the home field advantage that it offers to the team, but couple that with the ongoing stamina as last year’s Super Bowl Champions, and the combination can be deadly. Commonly known as “the zone”, this champion state of mind is proven to have a force of its own, and one that contenders know is hard to topple.
“You’re operating mentally and physically where you’re not thinking or over-analyzing and you’re producing the best you have to offer,” explains Dr. Michael Fraser, a clinical psychologist and chief of staff at Behavioral Associates in New York City.
Green Bay routinely takes the adrenaline high from the previous season and run with it. In 1929, 1930, and 1931 they demonstrated this by clinching the NFL Championship three seasons in a row. This was repeated in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, and 1967. If you add division championships to this mix, this list of streaks goes on and on.
Winning streaks thrive off of this type of energy and the psychological edge that it provides. After last year’s season, we can expect this to be in the back of every opponents mind as they face off against the Pack.
Although taunting and extreme celebrations are considered to be offensive by the National Football League, excessive celebrations are pushed to their limits when teams demonstrate their dominance over one another.
Famously known as the Lambeau Leap, the only reason that this showy display isn’t charged with the customary 15-yard penalty is because it is done so off the field, by hurling themselves into their sea of fans in the bleachers.
Aaron Rodgers is sure to throw around his iconic “championship belt” after upcoming future victories, a psychological taunt of their superiority. And who can blame Nick Collins for his natural display of enthusiasm during last year’s Super Bowl after an interception and resulting touchdown?
The “gravedigger”, a former Gilbert Brown classic taunt, brought the fans to a frenzy every time it was executed. I’d hate to think how it made the challenging offensive line players feel when they would witness it.
It probably felt like gut-wrenching despair that the Packer backers felt on October 5, 2009 while witnessing Jared Allen sack Rodgers for a personal career best 4.5 times. The deed was not complete until an excessively showy calf roping was done.
But in its truest sense, that’s exactly what these moves are supposed to do, show domination and provide a psychological edge. Intimidation works wonders.
The Green Bay Packers are no stranger to the concept of sports psychology. Vince Lombardi was known to utilize the strategy regularly.
"They call it coaching but it is teaching,” Lombardi had said. “You do not just tell them...you show them the reasons." This teaching method was not done merely on a team level though. Lombardi strove to cultivate the individual strengths of each athlete by customizing this approach to each of their unique needs.
Mike McCarthy as well has followed suit, recently bringing sports psychologist Kevin Elko to speak with the team prior to last year’s Super Bowl.
Hopefully the mental edge that the Packers hold right now sustains throughout the upcoming season. Regardless of what is to come, one thing is for sure, the Boys from the Bay are the team that is to be feared.