12 months, 67 hours, 6 players, 1 team, 1 dream

The Announcement

Last February, I was asked to be one of three former collegiate athletes to speak to all of Seton Hall University’s Division-I athletes about leadership and life. 

Overcoming a lot of self-doubt and limiting beliefs, I announced that I was willing to work with any team or athlete on their mental game. I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of Top Mental Game. 

After the talk, several players and coaches came up and wanted to get started. One of those coaches was Coach Natalie Desjardins, the women’s golf coach. We met the next week in my office, and we collaborated on a set of team sessions based around various aspects of the mental game - mental toughness, self-talk, goal-setting, and visualization and imagery exercises. 

A Year With Seton Hall Women’s Golf

I first spoke to the team on Feb 28, 2019. At the end of my first session, I said that I’d also be willing to work with any of the players one-on-one. 

I...

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To Trust You, I Gotta Know You

mindset perfromance trust Jan 30, 2020
My most recent team session with Seton Hall baseball was all about trust. 
 
Great teams trust each other. Like culture, it’s invisible, but you can build it. 
 
Trust is one of the reasons why elite teams in the military, law enforcement, and firefighting are so close. And trust is one of the secret ingredients that let’s them compete at a high level. 
 
In fact, referencing a study about how the U.S. Navy SEALs select their best, Simon Sinek said that trust was even more important than performance. In other words, the SEALs would prefer a mid-performing teammate who exhibited high trust, than a high-performing teammate with low trust. 
 
When there is trust, you feel as though you can be your authentic self. You can focus on doing YOUR job and not somebody else’s. 
 
When you trust that a teammate is willing to sacrifice for you, you will be more likely to sacrifice for your teammate.
 
So how can we build...
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Values, Behaviors, and Your Team Culture

 

I had an opportunity to speak to the Seton Hall baseball team about their team culture.

I love this topic because culture is like the wind or love. You can’t see it, you can’t hold it, but you can most certainly feel it. It’s there, all the time. And make no mistake, it is either helping your cause or hurting it.

I said culture is both everything and nothing. It’s “everything” because so many ingredients go into it - what players and coaches do, what they say, where and when do they spend time with each other, and how they respond to adversity.

It’s “nothing” because you can’t go down the street and just buy your team some more culture. You can’t just say we’re going to recruit some culture this year. 

We talked about the powerful difference between coach-led teams and player-led teams. Coach-led teams can be good...even very good, but ask any coach and they will tell you that player-led teams can be...

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Who is Your (Informal) Feedback Giver?

My old high school football coach, the legendary Vic Kubu, used to say, “You either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.”

I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Elite performers in all fields have coaches, but unless you are working one-on-one with a coach in your sport, chances are they use another trusted source to give them objective feedback on their performance. 

This is for two reasons. First, the main priority for a head coach is the TEAM, not necessarily any individual player. A head coach may realistically see only a portion of your performance during a particular game. He or she is not watching your every move. Second, it is unlikely that the athlete is able to accurately diagnose his or her own performance. Oftentimes, athletes are either their own worst critic, and unable to see any “good” in their performance, or they are not critical enough and unwilling or unable to get out of...

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Year in Review

Welcome to the last Mindset Monday of 2019....and the decade for that matter. 

This has been an amazing year for me, both personally and professionally. 

I wrote a book that was published by Columbia University Pressstood up a four-year leadership institute at Seton Hall University, completed a 4-month ICF-certified program to become a leadership coach, and became a featured certified mindset coach and a visualization specialist through Positive Performance Training.

But the #1 thing was my decision to start Top Mental Game. After years of talking and dreaming about it, and months of doing it pro bono, I made the decision to open up my own business. 

It "officially” started on Feb 6, 2019 - when I was one of three featured speakers at Seton Hall’s annual leadership forum. In front of all of Seton Hall’s Division-I coaches and athletes, I offered to work with any individual or team on their mental game. I wanted to test...

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Goal-setting Like A Champ in 2020

Uncategorized Dec 23, 2019

A few years ago around a Christmas dinner table, I asked my nephew what were his 5 year, 10 year, and 20 year goals. Both of my brothers, in true brotherly fashion, made fun of me for asking a 15-year old high school boy these big questions. 

“Did YOU have these types of goals when you were his age?” they chided me. 

“No,” I said. “But I wish I had.”

One of the most surprising things since I started Top Mental Game has been the lack of meaningful goals set by the athletes I work with. These athletes show up to practice, work hard, and spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years on their craft...and yet they often don’t put much thought into their “why” and their ultimate destination.

When I thought about it more, I concluded that I shouldn’t be surprised. If you asked most people about their life’s big goals, chances are they will look at you funny because they too don’t know them. After all,...

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Failure Can Be a Gift...If You Have the Proper Mindset

My daughter failed last week. She applied to attend an art field trip where they were only taking two kids in her 5th grade class. She loves art, is extremely creative, and an excellent writer, so she was devastated (for a 10-yr old!) when she was not selected. 

You never want to see your kid upset when they fail to achieve something they wanted badly, but in a way I was actually happy she was not selected. And it made me reflect on how I wish she would “fail” in a comparable way in sports sooner rather than later.

Why would I feel this way? Because sometimes failure can be an invaluable gift if we have the right mindset. In fact, failure can be the spark that ignites your inner fire and unlocks the greatest version of yourself. 

When I talked with my wife about my daughter’s art application, she said my daughter essentially mailed it in with minimal effort. She’s a great writer for someone her age, yet her she did the bare minimum when it came to...

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Process vs. Outcome Goals....and Your Self-Esteem

 

What is your big, hairy, and audacious goal (stealing Jim Collins’ great concept from his book, Good to Great)?

I bet you it is likely some type of outcome goal. An outcome goal is simply something that you’d like to achieve. Examples include earning a starting spot on your team, getting a college scholarship in your sport, or being named to your All-Conference team at the end of the year.

There is nothing wrong with outcome goals per se, but they can pose a serious threat to your self-esteem and your motivation to continue playing your sport if those are the only goals you are setting. 

Why do I say this? 

Because if you only have a list of outcome goals for you to achieve, you are more likely to internalize failure if you don’t end up achieving them. This is a particular problem for athletes who have difficulty differentiating their value as a person versus their value as an athlete. 

In other words, they have grown up believing, “I am...

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Do you attribute your success/failure to internal or external factors?

 

How do you explain your own success or failure?

If you succeed in something, do you attribute that success to internal factors, like your skill, talent, and work ethic? Or do you chalk it up to external factors such as luck, coaches and teammates who helped you out, or the fact that you played an inferior opponent?

Likewise, when you fail, do you blame yourself or do you blame the weather, a bad referee, or your coach?

The answer to these questions can have a significant impact on your mindset, and ultimately your maximum potential. Psychologists refer to this as explanatory attribution, and how you explain success or failure can influence how you feel, how you relate to other people, and how you respond to success and failure.

For example, I had an athlete who was playing out of her mind for a string of golf tournaments. When I asked her how she was feeling going into the next tournament, she said something to the effect of “expecting to come back down to Earth sooner or...

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The next time you miss the big shot...do THIS, not THAT

 

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...

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