Look no further than this somewhat cringeworthy, though sweet interview with Josh Allen to see how “tongue-tied” he gets at times. No one loves the big guy more than I do, but my goal here is to show why Josh getting hyper-adrenalized before games was a correct assessment. Josh admits as much during this interview.
I’m hopeful with the upcoming presence of a sports psychologist around the building the coaching staff will seriously address the issue during the offseason. It’s going to take more than just chilling out with old Elvis Presley or Justin Bieber songs to calm the jitters.
What is this term ‘jitters’ we speak of?
‘Hot reactors’ are people who tend to have their stress response easily triggered. That sets into motion an entire cascade of physiological responses that are automated and once triggered are out of your control. The key to dealing with “the jitters” is to develop better control over the trigger.
I use the term “better control” specifically here because you can’t entirely control the response. It’s automated to give you the best chance of survival when faced with perceived danger. The problem is how our bodies define “perceived danger”.
Having a similar physiological makeup and a hair-trigger stress response, it took years of training as a professional to learn how to modulate my own stress response. It takes a tremendous amount of mental discipline to learn how to NOT respond the way your body was preprogramed to respond.
Josh Allen appears to be this type of ‘hot reactor’. The good news is Josh is highly intelligent and motivated to learn better control over how his body is triggered by the stress response. The bad news is it will take a lot more work than chilling out to music to get there.
Though the speed of our stress response being triggered varies by our genetic tendencies, we can often identify environmental or historical triggers that can then be more easily controlled. For example, if the sound of a nearby train happened while someone is being abused in some manner, that sound or anything similar may trigger the stress response later in life.
While that’s an extreme example, what commonly happens is we learn to be triggered by certain events or stimuli over time. If we learn to understand exactly what our individual triggers might be and WHY we have them, we can learn to more effectively control them.
This process usually requires a dedicated amount of focus using principles of cognitive behavioral therapy to successfully accomplish. Getting into your own head requires a lot of emotional energy and isn’t something for the faint of heart. There needs to be a willingness to look authentically at one’s self. Easier said than done.
That’s the hardest part of the process. Once you identify the exact triggers and why they happen, the rest is learning stress reduction techniques to use to mitigate the response. I found in practice it’s best to encourage people to engage in whatever technique works best for them.
For some that may be learning specific breathing techniques, for others it may be something else. The goal is to individualize a treatment plan working around the triggers specific to each person. Once the plan is in place and working, you continue to tinker and refine it as life experience changes.
Conquering this challenge will be as important to Josh’s success as correcting foot mechanics or throwing motion. Going into his third year the expectation is now that he will get those ‘jitters’ under better control. I have every confidence like any challenge he takes on, he’ll get it done.
Editor’s babble: It’s as critical for Josh to get his mind right as it is the rest of his physical development as a quarterback. This season will define the trajectory of the rest of his career. The stakes for him have never been higher. But if you saw him play at Wyoming, you could see the kernel of what this young man can become. He has the heart of a champion.