Mindset is Everything

  • March 06, 2019


Some thoughts from Mike Shaw, co-founder of HeadStartPro Performance Training.

We’ve all heard it before; Mindset is Everything.

Everyone knows or has likely heard that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” Mindset involves focus, beliefs, vision, drive, goal setting, hard work, discipline, motivation, accountability, attitude, culture, etc. etc. Did I say HARD WORK?

Case in point, Tom Brady didn’t become the best NFL quarterback of all time, with six Super Bowl wins under his belt, by taking it easy. When he joined the New England Patriots roster at the turn of the millennium, he was consistently the first guy in the gym before any of his new teammates, every morning. His mindset, coupled with actions and vision, influenced the team’s culture and collective work ethic. But not everyone is a Tom Brady. In fact, nobody but Tom Brady is Tom Brady.

So, what can we do?

As coaches, how do we set our teams up to succeed and achieve their potential more consistently, like Brady?

Well, we all have ‘mental game’ to some degree, and we’re all good at coaching sport-specific skills. Working on things like attitude, effort, discipline, and work ethic is something almost all coaches do, but we can take it one step further. Have you ever heard of the ideal performance state of mind or the ‘flow state’?

In sports, we commonly refer to performances in the flow state as being in ‘the zone.’ Brady, like most champions, plays in this ‘zone’ time and time again.

Let’s talk about flow.       

Flow is the state of mind where everything just ‘clicks,’ and you perform your best. Your sense of time fades away. Hours can pass in the blink of an eye, or sometimes it feels like everything happens in slow motion. You can lose your sense of self in these moments, or it can feel like you’ve never been more aware. It’s hard to remember what happens when you’re in ‘the zone,’ or how you got there, but you do remember it was fun!

Achieving flow looks different for different people. It’s a complex task involving the right stimulus, the right skills, the right challenge, unique neurochemistry, and a complex environment.

So, getting young athletes to hit the optimal state of flow sounds simple right?

It’s not that simple, or is it?

Teaching athletes to self-regulate and manage internal distractions can help them achieve a sort of ‘flow baseline,’ where they are better prepared to hit the peak performance zone. Recognizing the physical and mental states that compromise their mindset is critically important. When we succeed at this task, athletes will make fewer costly mistakes—the ones that create a downward spiral in terms of self-confidence—and we’ll even prevent injuries in the process. We’ll build them up to be the great performers they can all be.

If you see an athlete or teammate, who’s mad, what do you tell them? Calm down? Pay attention? Or “GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!” – And how’s that working out for you?

If you see an athlete who looks exhausted, what do you do to reignite their spark?

What about if someone looks like they’re ‘coasting’ on autopilot?

Getting athletes to regulate their mental states on their own is the ticket.

Using distracting mental states as triggers to remind athletes to keep their heads in the game and control their mindset will help them achieve peak performances more reliably. All the hard work athletes put into honing their skills will NOT be in vain.

When athletes learn the techniques to manage their mindset, we see a boost in self-confidence, we see a massive boost in team performance, and oh yeah, with increased focus comes fewer injuries. Athlete health and longevity is affected too.

Learn More

See what Coach-2-Coach is all about!

Coach Responses

What are you doing to help your athletes shift their mindset?

Share your tips and best practices!

Malcolm Sutherland – Ice Hockey – Thunder Bay – 20+ years

“…As coaches and athletes, we often want to see results quickly. It has been my experience that mental training must also match age and stage, just as our physical training and exposure to competition. Starting with simple exercises that build awareness and an athlete’s ability to “attend” to affect as a result of events is a useful start. Once an athlete is building awareness, identifying positive behaviours and practices through recognition and reward type programs can be very effective. I have used “positive charting” where players who demonstrate positive behaviours, meet team norms i.e., sportsmanship and use psychological techniques like “reframing”, “breathing and focusing methods” and others like a “mistake ritual” are identified by an assistant coach and then during a team meeting are recognized for this skill.”

Arshid Naseri – Dragon Boat and Canoe – Iran – 10 years

“…Individual differences are very important in this regard. Some people are inherently more focused and more prone to perform championships, and some people are also more likely to be subject to environmental stress and stress, which I think the family and the environment in which the individual has grown is very influential.”

Alanna Gray – Hockey – Ottawa – 6 years

“Practice under pressure is what I preach. We re-create scenarios in game-like situations in practices or house league play, that may replicate a possible scenario in game play. I heard this from Jayna Hefford who said that to prepare for an Olympics, the women’s team played against men’s teams in shootouts at over 60 different games leading up to the Olympics. And in that Olympics, lo and behold, the US and Canada went to a shootout. Now all they had to do was remember that they knew what to do. They had practised this over and over, and it lead them to a Gold. They trusted the process, believed in their hard work and came out on top…”

Suzie Mcneil – Baseball – Toronto – 11 years

“When I hear “get your head in the game”, I am reminded of the Toronto Blue Jays and the recent demotion of their second baseman. He has clearly gotten out of the zone and cannot make the routine play, also known as the “Yips.” This example comes to mind because of what the manager said to him after. He said “We want you back up here, you are our guy, we believe in you”. While of course the spotlight is much greater at the major league level, I am reminded that we as coaches need to not just criticize but remind our athletes how much we believe in them and their spot is waiting for them when they return…”

See the new issue

See past Coach 2 Coach topics.

Sign up to receive Coach 2 Coach webinar updates monthly!