The next time you miss the big THIS, not THAT

action anxiety beliefs choking confidence feelings mental physical pressure results thoughts Nov 25, 2019

Happy Mindset Monday - Thanksgiving week edition!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving - I am thankful for so much this year, including the Top Mental Game community.

This week’s edition is about the ingredients that go into success or failure. 

If you’ve played or coached sports long enough, you know the story I’m about to tell. 

A player misses a big shot in in the clutch. Maybe it’s the 3-foot putt to win the tournament. Or down by 1-point and shooting a one-and-one with no time left on the clock. Or taking the last PK when it’s tied up. 

If a player doesn’t come through in the clutch, what does he/she do? The next day, you hear about them making 100 putts from that distance, or making 100 free throws in an empty gym, or 100 PKs after dark. 

While these are all great for building muscle memory and proper technique, what if I told you that they won’t do anything the next time that player is in the clutch moment.....IF it was their thoughts and beliefs that led to choking, and not their physical ability? 

In other words, you can shoot as many free throws as you want in an empty gym till 3 in the morning, but if you have negative thoughts, deep in your subconscious, about how you perform in pressure situations, those extra free throws are all but useless.

In the video, I describe the relationship between thoughts/beliefs, feelings, actions, and results. 

If you follow this blog, you know that it is common for players to have a preponderance of negative self-talk by nature. So if a player has negative self-talk going into a pressure moment (e.g. “I am terrified to be in pressure situations because I never come through in the clutch”), then those thoughts/beliefs will inevitably lead to feelings of nervousness and anxiety. 

When you feel nervous and anxious, your breathing shallows. Your bloodflow is restricted. Your muscles tighten. And when those things happen, it is very difficult to play at your best. Instead, we play tight, not loose. We lose focus. In short, we choke. 

When we fail and don’t get the results we wanted (e.g. we shank the pressure putt, we miss the front-end of the one-and-one, we sail the PK over the net), it is common for players and coaches to focus on the physical reasons why we failed.  We tell ourselves, if only we could practice more of this skill (putting, shooting, kicking), then we will do succeed next time.

But this may not be the reason why you failed! And without doing “work” on your subconscious thoughts and beliefs, you’re going to feel the same exact feelings of nervousness and anxiety when you’re in the moment....with the same exact results. 

 I once had a client who, after not performing up to her expectations in a major golf tournament, resigned herself to the notion that she needed to simply play in more tournaments. Play in more tournaments, she thought, and she’ll get more opportunities to compete, and therefore she’ll play better in the next major tournament.

If her problems in the big tournament were 100% physical, then this is a sound plan. 

If her problems performing in the big tournament are based on her thoughts and feelings about playing in big tournaments, none of this extra play is going to alter those thoughts and beliefs...and sadly, she will likely experience the same outcome. 

My recommendation? Let’s work on your thoughts and feelings first. Let’s work on your subconscious to get in the right mindset. THEN, and only THEN, will that extra physical work be put to good use. 

We do this through visualization, imagery, and stress inoculation in practice. 

Want to learn more? Contact me at

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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