I’ve learned throughout the years how important the recovery part is and how to properly recover. Recovery is just as important if not more important than working out. I say that because if you don’t learn how to properly recover then your body will start to breakdown and the workouts will start to hurt you more than help you.
As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rashard Davis.
Rashard Markese Davis is a football wide receiver and return specialist for the Tennessee Titans. He played college football at James Madison University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m from Charlottesville, Virginia but a lot of my family are from a small town right outside of the city called Louisa County. Growing up I spent a lot of time at grandmothers house in Louisa playing sports and participating in other interactive activities with my family. Playing with older people like my dad allowed me to pick up skills and techniques that people my age hadn’t been introduced to yet which in turn put me ahead of the curve. Throughout my entire journey to the NFL I have been constantly overlooked and downplayed because of my size but it has only put a chip on my shoulder and pushed me to work even harder.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.
Growing up we always played sports in the backyard at my grandmothers house and just like anything else that you do for a long time you start to become good at it. One thing that I picked up from watching my dad play sports all my life was my competitive nature and just wanting to be the best at everything that I do. With that mindset I’ve always dreamed of playing football in the NFL because it’s the highest level that you can reach and I’m able to prove to myself and others that I’m one of the best.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
If it wasn’t for my parents and my family then I definitely wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in today. My mom and dad pushed and supported me every step of the way and that includes any highs and lows that I’ve went through. I was also blessed with great high school coaches that cared for their players and made sure we were in the position to succeed if we put the work in. One coach in particular named Chris Johnson made sure I was always working and grinding to get better even when I wasn’t in the mood. I can recall one scorching summer day when he came to my cousins house unannounced to pick us up and make us workout. We definitely didn’t feel like working out in the moment so of course we complained about it not realizing at the time how crucial the extra work was for us.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
One day during winter break coach Chris came to pick up me and my cousin to workout and of course again it was unannounced. He took us to the football field to run through some speed drills and work on different routes but one particular drill still stands out to me. He pulled out this top speed rope where the person that’s attached in the front takes off running and the person attached in the back is pulled resulting in you reaching your top speed faster. Even though coach Chris warned me multiple times to be ready I wasn’t aware of how fast and hard the rope was going to actually pull me. When the rope pulled me I was yanked over my front foot causing me to be flipped and dragged for almost five yards on my ear. Where it was painful it is still one of the funniest moments that we talk about to this day.
What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?
To someone that’s trying to follow in my footsteps I would tell you to stay true to yourself throughout the entire journey. Be inspired but you can’t compare your journey or circumstances to anyone else because every has their own path that makes them different. If you want to make it to the highest level in your sport then you have to grind and put in extra work when no one else is looking or holding you accountable.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I have ran a youth summer football camp each year since I graduated from college making this my fourth year. However, because of Covid 19 I will not be having one this year but I have partnered my non-profit ‘Can’t Be Ignored’ with another non-profit ‘After-School Association of America’ to ensure that the kids are still out being active and encouraged to take the proper precautions to stay safe. We are asking the kids to send a fun and creative video showing them being active during these times, we are choosing two winners each month for June, July, and August to win a $50 gift card towards anything they would like.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
- Before going into the situation I make sure that I’m prepared for every scenario that could happen.
- An example could be me studying my opponents techniques and tendencies before a game.
- Going into the situation with a clear mind.
- Even though I’m prepared for every situation I’m not going into the game assuming things. I’m playing off of my opponent and reacting to them with the skills and techniques that I’ve acquired.
- Not allowing one mistake destroy me.
- If I don’t make one play then I just erase it from my head so I’m not effected on the next play causing a domino effect.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?
Nothing specific other than me just taking a few deep breaths to calm my nerves in certain situations.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
I like to use music as a tool to block out distractions. I’m either listening to music in my headphones before the game or I’m reciting the songs in my head if I’m in the middle of a game situation to keep a clear mind.
How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?
- I do almost everything in reference to working out to make sure that my body is in the best shape for me to go out and perform. I weight lift, I do field drills, and when I’ve been on my feet a lot and need to take some stress off of my body then I’ll go to the pool for a workout.
- I’ve learned throughout the years how important the recovery part is and how to properly recover. Recovery is just as important if not more important than working out. I say that because if you don’t learn how to properly recover then your body will start to breakdown and the workouts will start to hurt you more than help you.
- Consuming the right things and the the right amount of something is another way to help your body. The right foods, fruits, and vitamins will allow your body to function at a higher level for a longer period of time.
These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?
Yes, I’ve had to form habits in order to achieve the things that I’ve achieved in my life. Even though I may not always enjoy weight lifting or going out in the heat to practice, I have come to love the results and the success that stems from me putting in the work.
Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
Being successful and obtaining success is a wonderful feeling when you’ve worked hard for it. I feel like good habits will come and bad habits will leave when you become addicted to the feeling of being successful. The reason I say that is because you will realize and remember the things that you had to endure to get to that certain point and that the bad habits that you once had were holding you back.
As a high performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?
I think that repetition of a certain thing that you want to get better at will allow you to experience this state of flow. Repetition will allow you to form muscle memory and will help your mind and body in certain situations because you’ve already put yourself in that same position multiple times. Having to think less in certain situations will allow your mind and body to just react and not freeze up.
Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.
Meditation for me is just putting on my headphones and getting lost in the music. Letting go of all things that I may be going through at the moment and just clearing my mind to release and stress or burden that I’ve placed on myself. It allows you to reset and prepare for whatever your next step is.
Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?
– I feel the best way to eliminate the negative talk is to just change the narrative because at the end of the day it’s your own thoughts. Take your thoughts from “I hope I don’t drop this pass” to “I know I got this because I’ve prepared myself for this moment”.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have used my successes and knowledge that I’ve gained throughout the journey and invested them into the kids from my hometown. Holding small group training sessions and hosting a youth summer football camp for 3 years prior to this one has allowed me to pour my knowledge and teachings into them. This is important to me because when I was growing up I didn’t have an active NFL player taking the time to personally help me transform my game. This will help the kids take potential and turn it into skill to ultimately go out and dominate their competition.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I personally don’t have a favorite life lesson quote. However, my competitive nature has driven me to continue to strive to be better the next time. A lot of people give me praise for making to the NFL from our small city but to me that’s not enough and I’m still striving for myself to get better and do more.