The Most Important Job Interview in Sports: Part II

Taylor Mays works out in preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine

by Noah Gentner, PhD, CC-AASP

A few weeks ago I talked about the mental challenges of the NFL Combine (  I was even able to interview former NFL offensive lineman, Mike Rosenthal, to get an insider’s view of the Combine. According to Mike the most challenging aspects of the Combine are dealing with constant scrutiny as well as being pushed to the limits mentally and physically.  For the remainder of this blog I want to discuss the strategies that Mike used to deal with these challenges because, let’s be honest, if they work at the Combine there’s a good chance they can work in other situations.


“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  This quote by Benjamin Franklin sums up Mike’s views on the combine.  Just like any other big game, Mike spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the Combine.  He believed it was his job to do everything he could to prepare for his workout.  Fortunately for athletes who are going to the Combine, they know exactly what they will be asked to do.  There are very few surprises at the Combine (particularly in the physical tests).  So, Mike spent several months preparing for the drills he would face at the Combine.  “Back then there weren’t a lot of combine prep camps so since I was finishing up my degree at Notre Dame I stuck around and worked out with our Strength Coach Mickey Mariotti.  I trusted that he would do everything he could to prepare me for the Combine and I was happy with the way he trained me.”  Because of his physical preparation, Mike was extremely confident entering the Combine.  This highlights one of the most important outcomes of preparation…it leads to confidence.  We all know that athletes perform better when they are confident.  What is one of the best ways to increase confidence?  Preparation!!  Think of the best performance you have ever had in sports, school, work, etc.  I bet you were well prepared.  Focusing on preparation is focusing on success.

Of course, there are two sides to proper preparation: physical and mental.  Unfortunately, Mike admittedly did not get enough of the latter.  “Mentally, I did not do too much.  I wish I had done more but at the time I was just a dumb college kid trying to play football.”  When Mike went to the Combine Sport Psychology was not as widely used as it is today.  Now athletes can take advantage of a number of Combine prep camps which prepare them both physically and mentally.  “At these Combine camps these days they teach players how to take the Wonderlic and how to interview.”  Players who take advantage of these camps are not only taught how to interview and take the Wonderlic but are introduced to psychological skills training and how they can use mental skills to enhance their performance.  While Mike simply felt prepared for the physical aspects of the Combine, now athletes are prepared for both the physical and mental challenges they will face.  The outcome?  Extremely prepared and confident athletes.

As you think about your next competitions remember the importance of preparation.  What can you do both physically and mentally to prepare yourself for success?  Preparation leads to confidence which leads to success.


In addition to his preparation Mike felt his attitude was extremely beneficial at the Combine.  He even said he was able to identify which players were going to be successful.  “Guys who were prepared, were professional, and worked hard in drills succeeded.  The people who were arrogant or lazy usually performed poorly.  I think maintaining your confidence without being arrogant is important.”  This is pretty consistent with what we know about successful athletes…they are well prepared and have a winning attitude which includes taking their performance seriously and being confident without being arrogant.

When you think about successful people they all have one characteristic…they CARE.  They care about what they are doing.  They take it seriously and want to be successful.  Because they care they spend time preparing themselves and they take their work seriously.  Again, think about your best performance ever.  It was probably something you cared deeply about.  Because you cared so much about that event I’m sure you spent time preparing yourself and took the event very seriously.

The final piece of the winning attitude is confidence without arrogance.  I often tell athletes, “Confidence is the belief in your ability to get somewhere.  Arrogance is the belief that you are already there.”  Confident athletes and people believe they can achieve greatness.  Arrogant athletes and people believe they are entitled to greatness.  Confident athletes work hard to get things while arrogant athletes expect things to be given to them.  As you compete, believe in yourself and your ability to get what you want.

Ability to Recover

When athletes are well prepared and have a winning attitude they are typically successful.  However, things don’t always go our way.  We aren’t always going to be at our best.  One of the things that I believe is that a major difference between great performers and everyone else is their ability to recover from bad moments.  Great performers aren’t always great…sometimes they are just less bad.  Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, and Mia Hamm all had bad moments but they were able to quickly recover from those and get back on track.  Renowned Sport Psychology Consultant Ken Ravizza often says, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”  What he means is that things aren’t always going to go your way so you might as well learn to make the best of all situations.  It’s easy to be good on our best days but can you be good on your worst days as well?  In order to do this you need to be able to quickly recover from bad moments.  Mike believes this is a key aspect of the Combine.  “Staying positive is a big thing.  A drill is not going to go well sometimes, but if it goes poorly, move on and do your best on the next test.”  We can’t change the past so we might as well put it behind us and move on to the next drill or play.

The NFL Combine is an extremely stressful “job interview” which can bring out both the best and worst in athletes.  Those who are able to deal with the challenges make millions and their success is largely based on three factors: Preparation, Attitude, and Ability to Recover.  If we can apply these principles to other performance arenas we might be able to improve our performance and success.  It might not make us millions but it will make us happy.  As Mark Twain said, “Always do right, You will astound some people and gratify the rest.”

Noah Gentner, Ph.D., CC-AASP is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Sport Psychology graduate program at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA.  He received his Ph.D. in Sport Psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2004.  He has published his research in several journals and has given presentations on Sport Psychology at worldwide and regional Sport Psychology, Coaching, and Athletic Training Conferences.

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