SDSU football finds success through mental strength


BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — They say the biggest, fastest, and strongest teams are usually the best. And while there may be some truth to that thinking, the Jackrabbits have found another way to gain a step on their opposition.

Off-season workouts, in-season practice, morning lifts and nightly film study. A winning formula to form a successful team. But Kris Kracht had another idea.

“One day I decided that I would just call the athletic department and I said ‘I would love to do mental performance for your athletic teams, would anybody be interested?’ They said ‘we’ll give you five minutes in front of all the head coaches, make your sales pitch and then from there its in their hands.’ When coach Stig brought me in his office and said ‘hey, tell me your life story’, 45 minutes later I was done. He said ‘when can you start’ and I said, ‘today,” Kracht said.

And just like that, the process of building the team’s mental strength began last October, with Kracht assuming the role of Mental Performance Coach.

“Why not, why not, why shouldn’t we have a guy that deals in an area that’s very important in sport but we have no clue, we’re not trained in it, Steigelmeier said.

His process begins with relationships.

“We have about 70-80,000 thoughts in a given day and 80 percent of those thoughts are negative. They’re a person before they’re ever an athlete. And so I spend some time just getting to know the person because they bring all of that with them to the field, to the court, to the pool and so I try and spend some time building that trust and getting to know them on a personal level; sort of a holistic approach to mental performance,” Kracht said.

Through the training of self-talk, thought replacement and mental visualization, his teachings have made an impact on the Jackrabbits.

“Kris has done an excellent job for us this kind of fall and spring as he’s kind of transitioned into the program. We see him anywhere from 2-3 times a week sometimes and he just does a great job of just kind of clearing our minds and letting us know what the goal is at hand and helping us not to get lost in all the noise and the outside noise and just focus on what we need to focus on,” Tetzlaff said.

It’s a tool Kracht believes they can use well beyond their playing years.

“Mental skills aren’t just for sport. They’re in high demand right now in the corporate world, they’re in high demand in med-school and so its about giving them life skills,” Kracht said.

“100 percent of our guys have bought into this. So, that’s really powerful and that’s because of him and his approach,” Stigelmeier said.

An approach that could help SDSU win its first FCS championship.

“Everybody in the country at the division one level is training physically, technically and tactically, there isn’t one team that’s not doing that. But we think what can be a true separator for us, especially when it matters most and especially when its hard, like in the national championship, we think our mental strength can be something that puts us over the top and gives our athletes an extra tool that maybe other programs aren’t investing in right now,” Kracht said.

The message this week, among other topics, was about playing through heat fatgiue with the temperature set to be in the 80’s by kickoff time down in Frisco.

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