The NFL is a Great Sport Psychology Lab

fball_web.jpgOne of the reasons I enjoy sport is that it puts people put into situations of great stress…we then get to observe how they handle the pressure. I experienced a great example of that this weekend, in the NFL playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. As a graduate of the U. of Wisconsin, I’m a Packer fan, so I was watching this game with great interest.

The game took place in Green Bay, under the lights and in blizzard conditions. A new feature of the Packer’s offense was third-year running back, Ryan Grant—a player who had never taken an NFL snap before being traded from the New York Giants this year. Grant had risen from obscurity to become a star in the final two months of the regular season.

However, on the first play of the game, with the ball on Green Bay’s 18-yard line, Grant fumbled a short pass. Seattle subsequently scored. A kickoff, and two plays later, Grant again fumbled, leading to another Seattle touchdown. After only four minutes and three plays, Grant had cost his team 14 points.

The normally raucous stadium was quiet and the silence must have settled like a shroud onto the young tailback’s shoulders. Watching him on the sideline, he looked stricken. Grant had fumbled only once throughout the regular season and here he had done it twice in the first 70 seconds of his first playoff game.

Fortunately, his coach and his team did not panic and they rallied around their running back. On the sidelines, veteran quarterback, Brett Farve told Grant, “Forget about it. You’re going to have plenty of opportunities. Go down swinging, man. Don’t worry about it.”

The Packers marched down the field and scored. Grant touched the ball only once on that drive. Then, instead of being sent to the bench, he started getting play calls. Grant took off, running with a vengeance and with a debt to repay. He finished the game with over 200 yards and scored three touchdowns, leading his team to a 22-point win. His 201 yards were a team post-season record.

It was a lesson in resilience, and patience and the faith of a coach and a team in a young player. It was exhilarating to watch Grant rise above adversity. The darker it is, the more important it is that you shine, and I was able to see that in Ryan Grant. To me, that’s what sport is all about.

Here’s a Youtube clip of Grant shining in that game.


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]football,sports,physical education,NFL,playoffs[/tags]

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