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Head in the Game: Football Coach Teaches Meditation and Mindfulness

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen

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This story was originally published in the sports section of the first issue of Lance.

 

There is a mental side to football. A stressful, nervous, tedious side to football. This is where kicking/tight end coach Garet Moravec comes in. Moravec has been working with Westside’s football team the past two seasons, serving a role as the team’s psychologist and assistant coach.

Moravec wakes up and is either at the District 66 schools mentoring or is busy running his own cybersecurity business–”Bend the Bar.” But when the clock hits 3 p.m., he is on the football field talking strategy with other coaches. He brings a different perspective to football with his experience in sports psychology.

His father studied psychology at the University of Maryland, and during his time there Moravec was able to get plenty of exposure to it. According to Moravec, his father’s classmates would come to their house, and they would use what they had learned in class on Moravec.

“I got tremendous exposure to psychology in a safe environment where I felt comfortable,” Moravec said.

This week, Moravec is emphasizing focus with his players. After a normal Wednesday practice, they gather around wanting to see what Moravec has to say and watch in anticipation as Moravec begins. He brings a laser pointer, a bright electric flashlight, and a low-power manual flashlight. He also brings three red balloons along with him. He has three players volunteer to come up and hold the lights. The low-quality light is barely visible on the balloon. The second light is visible, but is not seen well. Then it’s the laser pointer, a green beam you couldn’t miss. He tells the player to slowly get the laser closer to the balloon. After about ten seconds of suspenseful waiting, pop. The balloon explodes, and the players looked around mouths wide open with curiosity, wondering how he got the beam of light to pop the balloon. Each flashlight symbolized a different level of focus, and the balloon served as the goal. This was one of Moravec’s many lessons he would be teaching the players throughout the course of the 2018 football season.

“The meetings are about mental training and performance enhancement,” Moravec said. “How do they improve their performance not just on the football field, but in life, in school. I’m trying to teach them to look at things from a different perspective.”

These lessons are all meant to focus on important life lessons, all the while serving a purpose on the field, he said. Moravec runs through a list of subjects he wishes to cover every Wednesday for the remainder of the season. Each subject contains a lesson that according to Moravec are hopefully going to get valuable experiences from that the players can hold onto.

Moravec said that he looks at his players as his children because he has none of his own. Senior Joe Stegman is one of the leaders on the team who appreciates what Moravec brings to the table.

“He’s somebody you can go to for your problems. On the field or off, he’s there to help,” Stegman said.

According to peaksports.com, the most common role in sports psychology is teaching mental skills that enhance performance on the field. This describes exactly what Moravec is doing. He is teaching skills that can help on the field, but, according to Moravec, also in other aspects of life. Meditation is one of the many skills Moravec asks his players to attempt to master. Moravec requests each player to meditate twice a day so that time can serve as a time to clear their mind and relax.

These meditation periods provide the players with a time to clear their heads after a day of school and practice. According to Moravec, it will help with their in school and in-game performances.

“Trying to put (the players) in someone else’s shoes,” Moravec said. “Or recognize that their behavior and concept of what happens is all within their control.”

Along with being the team’s sports psychologist, Moravec is also the tight end/kicking coach.

Moravec said he was interested in a coaching position since he began living in the Omaha area in 2001. He said he was interested specifically in Westside, so he called athletic director Tom Kerkman. One thing leads to another and he lands an interview with head coach Brett Froendt.

Froendt said that he was simply looking for a coach and that he was very lucky to have Moravec call in and present himself available for a position on the staff. Although Moravec’s coaching experience was from a while ago, Froendt said he was surprised and is grateful for the psychology experience Moravec is able to provide.

“The interview process wasn’t really extensive,” Froendt said. “He mentioned that he had this unique background and I thought that might be a nice fit especially coming off from what we learned from our Navy SEAL speaker.”

So far, according to Froendt, Moravec has been able to make a change in the mental piece of the sport for the team and has been able to make the Warriors a strong-minded team as a whole.

“He brings the mental toughness and mental focus aspect that is difficult to achieve at this level,” Froendt said.

Being the tight-end/kicking coach gave Moravec a position he felt he would be able to help out in. Moravec said he felt he would be able to make an impact on the performance of the team in a positive manner.

“Here’s my chance to make a difference again,” Moravec said. ”I took the chance of just asking, and I got my first choice.”

Moravec has been given a chance to assist in more ways than one. His experience from coaching high school at TC Williams High School in Alexandria Virginia will come in handy as he is stepping to a role for a team who holds high standards for themselves.

So far, Moravec has been able to meet those high standards according to senior Cade Jochum. Jochum is both a punter and a tight end. Both of these positions fall under the supervision of Moravec.

“He really helps me visualize myself making plays out there,” Jochum said. “Staying calm when I make my cut, when I’m trying to get open, or visualizing my kicks. He’s been great for me and for the whole team.”

Moravec said he wishes for his players to be appreciated just as he feels he is. Some players on the varsity football team gave him a nickname: “The Wizard.” After sharing his stories with the team they felt that Moravec had something special to share with the team. This makes Moravec feel even more comfortable in with the team.

“It’s flattering in that they’re giving me an affectionate term,” said Moravec. “They are the children I never had, and I want to know them the rest of their lives.”

Jochum appreciates Moravec for everything he’s done for the program. According to Jochum, Moravec has been able to help get the team ready for each game with his mental strength techniques.

“He helps us keep composure in stressful moments during the game, and has helped keep our focus,” Jochum said.

Jochum has the ability to be close to Moravec in practices because he is a tight end and also a punter. Both positions are under Moravec’s supervision.

He was able to earn the trust of the players, and the coaches. Moravec has solidified his spot as a valuable asset for the Westside varsity football team as an assistant coach and team psychologist.

 

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