Elite Performance Psychology – QB Command Presence


Elite Performance Psychology – This post explores command presence in elite college quarterbacks.

Elite performance psychology can help develop QB command presence in elite quarterbacks.  This post looks at the elusive intangible of QB command presence.  If you watched the Rose Bowl, you heard the announcers talk about the command presence of Baker Mayfield and how it comprised a performance intangible that set him apart from his peers.

First, the announcers are right that Mayfield has command presence at the line of scrimmage.  However, the announcers (along with many players and coaches) are wrong that command presence is an intangible.  Elite performance psychology identifies command presence as (1) confidence, (2) emotional and social intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management), and (3) emotional regulation (manifested as poise and mental toughness).

These psychological constructs are very tangible, they can be measured, and (best of all) they can be trained and developed.  To help illustrate the tangible of command presence, we are going to look at some film of elite quarterbacks that are either displaying command presence or NOT displaying command presence.

Before we look at the film, I acknowledge that we are, to a certain extent, viewing game situations that are as similar as apples and oranges.  But, I will argue that my analysis is valid in the narrow vein of the command presence behavior I am illustrating.  So here we go.


The first film clip is from the epic goal line stand USC made against Stanford in the PAC-12 Championship.  Stanford’s QB is sophomore K.J. Costello.  What we are watching here is his body movement, as the downs tick from 1st to 4th without a touchdown, look at the wasted movement and how jerky and disjointed his body movements become.  During one down, he is walking to the line of scrimmage still looking at his wrist play sheet.  This does not display command of the offense and does not relay confidence.  You can see the other offensive players responding to Costello’s lack of command of the situation – communication is impacted, situational awareness is impaired, player assignments and confidence are impacted.  In elite performance psychology there is a saying that goes…slow is smooth and smooth is fast.  This means that when you have a true command of your performance, your movements are smooth and deliberate.  When you are stressed and lack poise, your movements become quick and jerky because your mind is spinning and trying to cope with a flood of environmental data that is slowing down cognitive processes and impacting other functions, like smooth deliberate movement.  This is not a criticism of Costello, he is a talented young quarterback, this is simply an illustration of how stress can impact cognitive performance – it can and does happen to the most experienced elite athletes.

The next video clip is from the Rose Bowl where Baker Mayfield put on a quarterback clinic during the first half of the game.  Again, I acknowledge the difference in the game situations.  What we are watching here is body movement and his command of the offense.  Notice the smooth deliberate movements, no wasted actions, he moves with confidence behind the offense communicating with authority and a firm grasp of the offense.  This is textbook QB command presence.  As you know, the second half of the game was much different for Mayfield’s Sooners, but what didn’t change was his command presence.  Even as Georgia retaliated with vengeance, Baker never looked like Costello on the goal line vs. USC.  Now, putting this into context, Baker is older and more experienced than Costello…and the Heisman Trophy winner, so no dig on Costello.  In Mayfield we are simply witnessing a seasoned confident QB with total command of his game (at the college level anyway).

In the last video clip, we are looking at an interview of Washington’s QB Jake Browning after they were stunned by Arizona State.  The Sun Devils were coming off a bye week and dialed up a healthy dose of chaos for the Huskies.  There are two takeaways from the Browning interview.  The first takeaway is that a consistent lack of execution is an indicator that the other team has disrupted your decision loop and is causing cognitive processing errors (overwhelming the thinking system) for your QB.  The second takeaway is that Browning acknowledges the mental component of the moment and his need to reflect and improve.

Browning normally has good command presence; the ASU game shows how much of the game really is mental.  The good news is that poise, command presence, cognitive processing, and decision making can all be trained and optimized in QBs.  The bad news is that few programs or coaches know how to do this or don’t do it in a deliberate evidence-based way.

Elite performance psychology at TierOne Performance Consulting helps elite athletes improve poise, command presence, and decision making in time sensitive high-stress game situations. Noticing the fluidity of your movement and your eye movement are a few ways your body tells you that stress has hijacked your performance.  Learning how to control and self-regulate your cognitive and physiological states is a must to perform at the highest levels.  Elite performance psychology at TierOne Performance Consulting can help you learn the skills to perform on the biggest stages.

There is a reason why elite athletes and high-performing executives have personal coaches.  It takes expertise to assess performance strengths and weaknesses and develop evidence-based training to optimize performance at all levels.  Develop your cognitive skills, decision making, and poise under pressure with the TierOne Performance Consulting team or at the TierOne Performance Institute.  We offer state-of-the-art individual and program-based training to optimize elite athletic performance and executive coaching.  Also, checkout this YouTube clip on improving poise and mental toughness through distress tolerance training.

 Remember – Put your mind on what matters.

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