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Are You Your Opponent's Greatest Advantage?

Mindset Made Simple Tip #148 – Watch or listen HERE.

It’s the age-old game of telephone. You remember it. Someone tells you a story and you repeat it to the person to your right and on down the line it goes!

We played it last week in my sessions with the Internationals Soccer Club, one of the best ECNL clubs in the country. Years ago, my good friend and gold medalist, Michelle Venturella told me about using this with the University of Iowa softball team. Legendary coach Gail Blevens used it to show how stories take on a life of their own as they pass through multiple, ears, voices and frames of reference. The stories about the pigs that traveled around the country ended up very different in the end. Fewer and incorrect details…sometimes a whole new story!

This is the nature of team communication AND it was only one of the lessons we learned last week as we ran this through teams ranging from 13u to 19u. The team’s age didn’t matter. Almost all these high-level players had similar reactions to the task.

The first person (in some cases, the first two people…I got generous after the first few rounds) had a minute and 15 seconds to read and memorize the story of three Costa Rican monkeys.

The entire paragraph contained 57 words. You would have thought it was 5700!

Immediately, those charged with the task of kicking off the game began to freak out. “We have to memorize that WHOLE THING?” “How much time do we have?” “What happens if I (we) can’t remember everything?” “Oh my gosh!” All followed by uncomfortable laughter and some shaking of the hands in angst.

The others were waiting…impatiently…for the story to travel their way. In the meantime, they set themselves up for failure, talked about who would be the one to screw it up and talked more about how there was no way they would get it right.

Had they been paying attention to their opponents, they could have used ALL OF THIS to their advantage. The problem was, they were all doing it!

It was fascinating to watch. They fell into all the tendencies we know exist in our amazing yet frustrating brains.

Those brains, most of them elite in so many ways, were screaming “I CAN’T DO THIS!”

From the moment the first person(s) saw the paragraph, the negativity bias kicked in and the energy went from playfully fun to playfully “oh crap” and you can bet your Costa Rican monkeys this influenced the outcome!

Most of this group is well versed in their RESPONSE-ABLIITY and understands our approach sets up our action.

ALL OF THAT WENT OUT THE WINDOW at the sight of a 57-word paragraph!

Even with the frenzy of fun with a little fear, it was hysterical! The 2019 Dodge Charger became a Toyota, a limo and a motorcycle. Pizza became tacos and burritos and they butchered Tuscaloosa a million ways to Sunday!

They laughed, made fun of themselves and each other…and then we broke down our behaviors!

Why did this simple task make us temporarily incapable and turn us into Negative Nellies ?

It started with a lack of CONFIDENCE in whether they could listen, learn and pass along the information. There were no consequences. There was no pressure. This was a game!

But that natural tendency of doubt we all are blessed with still showed its ugly head!

It happens to all of us. It is part of who we are.

And it gives our opponents a HUGE advantage! WE GIVE OUR OPPONENTS THEIR BIGGEST ADVANTAGE!

The question is, how do we manage it?

Without bringing up all the tools these kids know and chastising them for not using them…like feeding their thinking brain with a long-exhaled breath or doing a power pose to get them prepped, we dove into something even simpler!


The best definition I have heard comes from author and motivational speaker, Brendon Burchard.

Burchard defines confidence as something similar to what Webster’s says, but it feels so much more achievable in these terms.

He says confidence is simply believing that you can figure things out.

That’s it. You think you can figure it out!

How many times in your life have you not figured out what to do so catastrophically that you doubt everything else you can do?

Could these kids figure this out? Could they figure out a way to remember more…or remember the important stuff? Could they figure out that this was a game, and it didn’t really matter, which may have allowed them to remember more?

How did this dumb game relate to soccer? It’s the same question, really!

Did they know what to do with the ball when it is at their foot on the pitch? Could they figure it out? Had they done it before?

Then…could they figure it out no matter how they felt at that moment? What did their feelings have to do with whether or not they knew what to do? Does the way we feel change what we know?

We spend so much time thinking, talking and worrying about CONFIDENCE that the term itself makes us shiver. If confidence is simply believing we can figure it out, why do we make it such a big deal?

Because we FEEL confident…or we don’t. That is ALWAYS how we describe it.

Maybe we need to reframe the construct and DO confidence…meaning, what do I need to do to figure it out or remind myself that I can? Or maybe we ditch the word confidence altogether and find ways to compete…until we FEEL like we can figure it out?

There are times we can’t figure stuff out, but most of the time we can…if we have done the work, of course. But so often we fall back on “I don’t know what to do!”


Pick a good pitch. Look up. Move your feet. Look for opportunities. The whole “I can’t” or “I don’t know what do to” are simply giving our opponents all they need to beat us!

If you are trained technically and tactically and are physically fit enough to be in the play, YOU CAN FIGURE IT OUT…or you wouldn’t be there! Contrary to the belief of some fans, parents and peers, leaders and coaches don’t put people in positions they cannot handle. How do I know? Because coaches aren’t trying to lose!

“I can’t” and “I don’t know what to do” are cop-outs we turn to when we think we can’t figure it out because we feel like we can’t.

I bet we can make our opponents search for another advantage if we simply use our mental tools to slow the game down, go through our routines, focus on what we can do and look for ways to use our talent and training to deal with W.I.N. – what’s important now.

It’s not about how we feel or what others think or how long the passage is we need to remember. It’s about asking the simple questions of “How can I figure this out with what I have right now?” or, “What do I know, based on my experience, that will make a difference right now?”

CONFIDENCE is much easier to manage if we keep focused on how we can figure out how to manage our NOWS…not what might happen or what has happened!

Manage the moments…by figuring it out!


P.S. Looking for a speaker to come in to kick off 2023-24? Contact me today at or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s set up a session or a plan for your program!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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