For all of you football fans out there, the NFL Combine is right around the corner! And during that event, one of the most popular events is the 40 yard dash – a key measure of a player’s top speed.

Now speed is certainly important for every position in the league, but have we ever thought about why a player’s 40 yard dash time isn’t talked about much after the draft? Especially in relation to their performance and level of success?

Yes, the easiest answer is that there are so many more skills involved in the game of football on top of the fact that success is a result of the entire team’s effort – all true.

But for the sake of today’s post, let’s stay focused at the individual level and see what we can learn.

While thinking about a running back or wide receiver, ask yourself how often do they have a straight shot down the field towards the endzone?

More than likely, they don’t have one. Rather, they get hit (repeatedly) and may potentially never come close to their top 40 yard dash speed while making a play.

Which brings me to another statistic…

Yards After Contact (YAC). This measure, to me, is one of the key differentiators that defines champions both on and off the field.

Yards After Contact simply measures how much additional progress (in yards) a running back picks up after they get hit by an opposing player. It’s a simple measure, but not simple to gain. The very best don’t go down after a few hits – they keep pounding and charging ahead until multiple opposing players wrestle them to the ground.

So what can we learn from this? If you ask me, quite a bit!

Build the Maximize YAC Mentality

In our personal and professional lives, our 40 yard dash may be the most meticulously planned approach to achieving a goal, dream or vision.

But what happens after first contact? What happens to our momentum and drive after the first obstacle or setback? How about after the 10th?

In the beginning of your journey when you are full of motivation, willpower, and the excitement from your new endeavor, you may be able to make progress and win through brute force or size alone – especially if your competition is playing their game at a lower or comparable skill level. 

However, as you rise up through your progress and success to play at higher levels, the Yards After Contact will only come if you consistently and continually put in the work to grow, learn and develop your craft.

Here are 5 ways to begin to maximize your Yards After Contact in all that you do!

Keep your legs moving:

One of the best ways to keep racking up yards after you get hit in the game of football is to keep your legs moving! It creates the opportunity to push the pile forward and shake of would be tacklers who don’t have a firm grasp on you. Otherwise, as soon as your legs stop, you stop.

In life, keeping your legs moving equates to keeping your forward momentum going despite your challenges. In short, keep taking action! It is an absolute certainty that if you are doing something worthwhile, then you will be knocked around – it will be challenging and difficult. It’s the people that keep moving forward no matter the obstacles that ultimately arrive at their destination with their heads held high.

Keep your head up:

Another great way to maximize yards after a hit is by having your head up to see where you can spin or bounce to in order to shed the defenders and get up field. If you have your head down, then you may very well be running into a wall of defenders that are chomping at the bit to drill you into the turf.

Off the field, we need to keep our heads up to what’s going on around us in order to maximize our field of vision. When faced with a barrier to progress, what other opportunities are around you that can create solutions to your current problems? What is happening around us that can help guide us in the right direction? Who is in our circle of genius that has potentially been through similar challenges that can help us out with ours? If we keep our heads down and only focused at the problem that is 6 inches in front of our face, we are missing out on a tremendous amount of perspective and insight that can propel us forward.

Get lower than the defender:

As a running back, it is critical to get lower than the opposition – I was always told the lowest player wins. Consider it maximum leverage and power when the impact happens. As a player, I did not excel in this skill as I could often be seen running pretty much as upright as possible. I gave the opposition a huge target and I no doubt missed out on plenty of yards after contact.

In our game, we need to play to our strengths and always keep ourselves in the best position to meet a challenge or obstacle when it hits us – sound and steady versus weak and off balanced. Invest in your skills to deepen your knowledge and ability to excel in what you do. Build a strong team around you that is ready to battle back in tough times. Be aware of what is going on in your industry or competitive landscape to fortify your ground. Understand who you are playing against, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and where the opportunities exist to surpass them. Taking steps like these will help you build your maximum leverage and power to get lower than your competition when they are coming at you.

Always get back up:

Even the very best running backs in the game get tackled… actually the vast majority of the time they do get tackled. As important as it is for them to battle for every extra yard, it’s equally important that they get back up from being tackled after each play – hungry to battle even harder on the next play.

The purpose of having a Maximize YAC Mentality is not to avoid getting tackled. It is to bring the intensity every play, fight for every forward movement, and get back up after each and every knock down without loss of motivation or drive. Some instances of getting knocked down are going to hurt more than others. However, never forget that the game isn’t over unless we decide to stay down. Keep getting up!

Build in time for recovery:

Football is a brutal game, and as a result, it is one sport where teams don’t play multiple games each week. The players need time to recover and rest. Yes, there is plenty of practice, prep work for the next game and weight training during that week, but time is still dedicated for rest and healing.

Despite the never stop grinding mentality that is out there in the professional and entrepreneurial space, I advocate for dedicating time to recovery. We may be able to push through on a few hours of sleep each night for weeks and months on end, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are playing at our best. I was reminded recently that life is not a marathon… rather it is a series of sprints – short full speed increments followed by rest and recovery before sprinting again. Trying to run a marathon at a sprinters pace will not yield a positive outcome. Get a massage, spend time with family and friends, get away on a vacation or somewhere that creates a calm and renewing setting for you. Focus on recovery so that you can walk back on your field knowing that you are primed to play your best.

In closing today, let’s remember that we aren’t out to run an uninterrupted 40 yard dash in any of our pursuits in life. If we can run our race without obstacles or adversity, then we aren’t playing big enough.

Reflect on where you can bring more intensity, effort and drive in your life to battle for those extra Yards After Contact. The quicker you build the Maximize YAC Mentality, the more progress you will make towards your goals.

Discussion Question: What are the areas in your life where you are getting knocked down on first contact? What can you start doing now to help you battle for a few extra yards the next time an obstacle in your life hits?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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