"What the hell is that?" This was my reaction when I saw the photos of the Eagles video schedule from Jimmy Kempski and Sheil Kapadia. On the screen in green, after "Lunch" and before "Special Teams Meeting", was listed "High Performance Mindset Meeting." It sounds bad ass, and it turns out it was. Chip Kelly (and I’m thinking Sports Science Coordinator Shaun Huls had a hand in this too) brought in a guest speaker, Navy SEAL officer Coleman Ruiz, to talk about his mindset when on the battlefield and how it could apply to the football field. But what exactly could Ruiz have talked about. Well, I’d like to venture a guess…
First, let’s get back to Shaun Huls. If you have not read Jenny Vrentas’ profile on Huls, please do. It’s required reading. According to Vrentas, Huls spent five years training Navy SEALs in a military base in Virginia Beach and was the first strength coach hired to work in a human performance program at Special Warfare Group 2. Not only did Huls train and coach, but he participated in typical SEAL exercises in order to fully understand the strains on the human body, both mental and physical. I think it may have been here where Huls was introduced to something called "Comprehensive Soldier Fitness".
Much as it is with any kind of technology, the military is often where new science is first applied. Ever since Martin Seligman’s inception of positive psychology, there has been a revolution in studying how to enhance the function of our brain and our behaviors in order to maximize well-being and performance. Books have been written (The Oxford Handbook of Happiness) and business and self-help courses have been created (Michael Bernard’s "High Performance Mindset") in order to capitalize on this new field of research. But the military is where the benefits, or at least the early returns, can be seen. (Note: Seligman’s Positive Psychology Center has a webpage devoted to this, what he labels as Army Resilience Training.)
The military’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program has a Performance Enhancement track, which is "based on four decades of scientific research and recognized best practices in the field of sport and performance psychology. The tenets underlying excellence in human performance are applicable to all professional occupations. The mental and emotional skills required to excel on the athletic field are similar to the skills underlying excellence on the battlefield, in the classroom, in the workplace, and at home. Given this understanding of human performance, [CSF] tailors the delivery of the program to meet the needs of a wide spectrum of Army organizations and populations."
Here is what CSF looks like:
Mental Skills Foundation
Identify the mental skills that underlie performance and understand the psychology of performance excellence.
Develop effective thinking skills to create energy, optimism, and enthusiasm and help manage internal obstacles that hinder performance excellence
Employ methods to take control of your attention, improve your ability to attend fully and concentrate amidst distractions.
Use self-regulation skills to effectively modulate and restore energy in order to thrive under pressure.
Develop a concrete, step-by-step plan for achieving a personally meaningful goal and maintaining the motivation necessary to be successful.
Mentally rehearse successful performances to program the mind and body to perform automatically and without hesitation.
Looking at this program through the lens of the NFL, we can get a clearer picture of what Chip Kelly and Shaun Huls want this football team to look like: a Philadelphia Eagles team that can be mentally tougher and more fundamentally sound than any Eagles team in a long time. To this end, I don’t expect Tuesday’s "High Performance Mindset Meeting" to be limited to just one session. I expect it to be an attitude and practice that pervades training camp, the season, and hopefully, the organization as a whole.