One of the most important qualities that a professional competitive athlete can have is control over his emotions. This might be particularly valuable in the defensive backfield, and specifically the cornerback position, where more than any other spot mistakes are so easily visible, and so costly.
Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Joe Haden, who one week made a play so big that a picture of his act was already framed on the wall in the team’s facility shortly after that. His fourth-quarter interception of Tom Brady was a big moment that could have helped save their season.
Now he’s dealing with the adversity of being responsible for two huge penalties that led to New Orleans Saints touchdowns in a loss that saw them forfeit control over whether or not they reach the postseason. While he admitted that it took him some time to cool down from it, he talked about the importance of letting it all go during his acceptance of The Chief Award yesterday.
“Win, lose, or draw, my dad always taught me, never get too high when you’re doing good, never let them get too low when you get down, always try to stay as even-keeled as possible so you can always just be who you are”, he said. “It’s from since I was a kid. I was raised by my mom and dad very, very well”.
Generally, you are never going to be as good or bad as your highest or lowest evaluations, so it doesn’t make sense to invest much in either one. That is the mindset with which Haden approaches the rollercoaster life of a professional athlete whose accolades extend only so far as the quality of his most recent performance.
“You can go from the Patriots game where I thought I was the man, and then you go to the New Orleans game where, it’s not so much, but you understand what it is”, he said. “I gave my best effort, I tried my hardest, it was never a thing where it was effort. And sometimes those plays don’t go your way”.
He and the Steelers have one more game to play this year—hopefully more—before they start looking to next season. A year ago, Haden said that he started training almost immediately after their 2017 season ended. That was because he was happy to be healthy. And he shared his philosophy on how to approach the game from a mental and emotional standpoint.
“Don’t be an emotional rollercoaster. Just try to be who you are. Try to come in and work hard every day. Try to be the same person. Just try to give your best effort”, he said. “At the end of the day, this is a sport, this is a game that we’re playing and that we love, but it’s still a job. Just take it seriously. Try to be the best that you can be and everything will work out for you”.