This week the eyes of the sporting world turn to Las Vegas as the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers face off in Super Bowl LVIII.
It is a rematch of the Super Bowl LIV which saw the Chiefs beat the 49ers 31-20.
For some 49ers players, it will be a chance at redemption, for the Chiefs it will be their fourth Super Bowl in five years and a chance for a third Super Bowl ring.
For some players on both sides, like 49ers quarter back Brock Purdy, it will be their first time stepping onto the grandest stage in sport.
So how do they prepare for it?
Matthew Slater, the New England Patriots great and three-time Super Bowl Champion gives his insights as to how he handled his first Super Bowl appearance and how he used failure to power him on to success.
The following excerpts come from his course Gunning for Success available now in the OMP app.
My mindset headed into my first Super Bowl in 2012 changed the mindset I had for the remaining four appearances.
Heading into my first Super bowl, the number one thought on my mind was, we can’t lose.
We have to win this game. We just have to win this game. I had this urgency to win, and then there’s a great fear of losing.
We’ve come this far. You never know if you’ll make it back again.
My dad made it to one Super bowl with the Rams in 1980, lost and never got back there.
I really didn’t want that to happen to me. So my fear of we just can’t lose was certainly more heightened, maybe even more so than others.
It was restricting and suffocating.
I was hesitating in my actions and didn’t want to make a mistake, which led me to make mistakes.
When we lost, I was devastated. But once I overcame the emotion, it made me so hungry, so motivated to get back there again.
I decided that I wasn’t going to give in to fear anymore and I was going to go out there and lay everything on the line.
I had a taste of championship football, and when you get a taste of your goals or something that you’re hoping to achieve and you get that close and you see what it’s like, but you miss out on it, it makes you so hungry.
Learning from Failure
My big learning from my first Super bowl was that I needed to stick to my routine. I needed to push aside any distractions and maintain the process I used throughout the season to get me to that point.
That meant ignoring calls and messages from family and friends, getting my wife, mom and dad to deal with those distractions.
I had to remind myself that the game was exactly the same as any other. The dimensions of the field do not change. The ball is the same size and weight.
There are large crowds at all games throughout the year, and as always, the opposition want to win as much as you.
Now, I’m never going to say it was a good thing to go to the Super bowl and lose, especially because there was no guarantee that I was going to go back there again.
But losing that first one taught me so much for the next four Super Bowls, and I never again had that fear.
Even when we were down 28 to three against the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, I wasn’t worried about losing.
Focus on What You Can Control
All my thoughts were, let’s go out here, try to represent ourselves a little bit better and just start competing at a higher level and executing.
It was remarkable in those moments and as the game went into overtime that we didn’t panic, and our focus remained honed in the way that it did.
When you’re in these situations, the best way to remain calm is to focus on the controllable elements of your game.
When you get in a situation like being down at halftime, there are so many things outside of your control.
So, you need to look at what you can control. It’s peeling it back to the fundamentals that you talk about from day one.
How can I do my job with good technique, good execution and just focus on that?
You can’t become overly fixated on the outcome.
Let the coaches – or whoever – be worried about the outcome.
You, as a player, as a performer, need to focus on just doing your job with consistency in those moments.