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Avoid "Kelce-Like" Behaviors With In-Game and Post-Game Plans

Mindset Made Simple Tip #187 - Watch or listen HERE.

There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about Travis Kelce.  And, no, I’m not talking about Travis and Taylor. 

The talk that interests me is the reaction to Kelce’s overly emotional interaction with coach Andy Reid, although I must admit that I do like Taylor Swift.  Not as much as my 10-year-old, niece Julia who is a total Swiftie, but her appearance at football games is no big deal to me!!

What is a big deal is how athletes manage emotions.  The act of competing is wrought with emotion.  How athletes and coaches manage emotion has a huge impact on their performance. 

It is not my intention to justify Kelce’s behavior, but I will admit I have behaved in ways on the field that, had a camera been focused on me, I would not be proud of either!  I bet most of us have been there…even those of us who just sit in the stands!

Instead of debating whether Kelce’s behaviors are acceptable or not, let’s talk about ways we can help athletes manage emotions in hopes of avoiding these types of interactions.  No coach wants them.  No player helps him or herself when they get to that point! 

So often we tell our athletes to “have more confidence” or “get your head out of your butt” and everyone in the room knows both of these things are necessary and we judge them as being weak or uncoachable for both, but telling someone something and providing tools to make it happen are two different things.   And telling someone to “calm down” is yet to get them to do so!

Knowing this, what can we do to help our athletes step back from the ledge that may lead to a point of no return for that game…or for their careers?

It all starts with SELF-AWARENESS.  This is the key to all improvement.  If we aren’t aware of what pushes us to our limits, we have no road markers to keep us on track…like the rumble strips on the side of the highway!

To establish our own “rumble strips”, we need to identify the emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, that push us off track.  

Once we determine what this list of emotions includes, the next step is to identify when these emotions present themselves.  Is it when the ball isn’t coming your way, and you are open?  Is it when you miss a shot because you feel you were hammered on the way up?  Is it after you score a goal or get out of a jam on the mound? 

If we have an idea of what makes us swerve off track, we can prepare for those things, whether they involve frustration or excitement.  In a conversation with one of my athletes last week, we talked about the need to “reset” after every play, not just the “bad” ones!

How do your athletes “reset”?   If you’re of a certain age, you may have been put in “timeout” as a kid.  I was a bit before that and was probably threatened with one of those paddles at one point was a toy and had a rubber ball connected to it…I’m sure the timeout would have been more pleasant!

What happened to timeouts when we got older?  We need to put ourselves in a “timeout” to ensure we don’t shoulder-shove our coach or miss the next play because we are so emotionally charged we can’t see!!

The “reset” we use is simple.  Once we are AWARE of the emotions and situations that take us away from our best, we are more attuned to RECOGNIZING these behaviors/feelings before they cause too much trouble.  Once we recognize them…and the more often we do, the better we get at SHIFTING to neutral so we can regain our wits…we can DO SOMETHING to help us focus on WHAT’S IMPORTANT NOW!  For some athletes, this may be a multi-action system.  For others, it may be a recentering word, an action that connects them to the present moment and for all of them, it should include a physiological sigh or a few deep breaths at least!

Want a system?  In July 2022, Tip #102 included 4 “F” words of focus.  This is a simple framework Dr. Sue Zeigler used with us at CSU that includes “Fudge” – acknowledging something is the way you want it. “Fix” – taking a second to think about WHAT WE WANT or WHAT’S IMPORTANT to get where we need to be.  “Forget” – taking a deep breath, doing something physical or going to a PRE-DETERMINED thought or feeling to move to the next thing.  And, “Focus” – finally shifting attention outward by OTL (observing the landscape) and DOING what the game demands at the moment. 

The ”forget” and the “focus” may both be predetermined, an “if/then” kind of thing, if your game or environment allows for planned actions.  If not, the ability to be outward-focused and take in information from the environment to make decisions based on what is, not what we think it should be, is vital to MOVING FORWARD.

Just as important as in-game shifts are post-game processes.  How we manage emotion after performances has a huge effect on our ability to rest and recover and on how we prepare, both mentally and physically, for our next performance. 

Taking a “timeout” is important here, too.  If I had to do it all over again, I would approach post-game reviews a bit differently. 

If you have two games back-to-back, your approach would be different than if you have 24 hours between competitions.  In the case of multiple contests, I would stick to the questions discussed in last week’s Tip.  What were our intended results/intentions?  What were our actual results?  What contributed to/caused our results? What will we do the same next time?  What will we do differently? How will we do this- BY DOING WHAT? What did we learn?

If you do have more than 24 hours between contests, going back to the “timeouts” of your youth may be beneficial.

While we do not want those we lead to pretend their emotions do not exist, it is important to put a moratorium on them, in a sense.  You know you those your group better than I do, so deciding what is best for your group is up to you. 

I suggest you give them a timeline to allow the past to affect their thinking.   Once that time is up, we move to former Olympic soccer coach, Tony DiCicco called “continuous improvement” mode.  Coach DiCicco implemented a “24-hour Continuous Improvement Rule” that allowed players 24 hours to regroup without the need to address any adjustments needed for improvement.  After 24 hours and 1 minute, it was time to get into improvement mode.  What did the players need to do to be better the next time they touched a ball?  It was time to SHIFT from feeling what happened to use what happened as data to make us better.

Many of us don’t have 24 hours and 1 minute to contemplate adjustments.  We may need to use the “magic hour” rule.  The “magic hour” after a game may be the most influential time for our athletes and following Coach DiCicco’s rule of not rushing past our emotions, we can set a timeline of one hour after the game to move from feelings to facts. 

Both methods may change your post-game talk approach.  But leaving some time for letting things settle may be helpful. 

Even so, the language they use during the “magic hour” or the 24 hours after the performance can influence their ability to recover and constructively focus on the future.   You may consider introducing ways to help your athlete use more productive language post-game.   This begins with how they talk about all they do.  Do they say stupid stuff out loud, use sarcasm or talk crap about themselves or what they do or don’t do regularly?  If so, setting standards for the words they use can help both in-game resets and post-game recovery.

While we will never rid athletes of emotion…WE DON’T WANT TO…we can provide tools and frameworks to help those we lead manage either.  As the original LBJ said, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”  We can’t recover yesterday or the last hour, but we can use the facts of both to help us win tomorrow.  If we don’t, we’re bound to lose both.

Manage emotions and the moments!



P.S. Does your team need a new way to deal reset and refocus? Reach out today to schedule a three-session workshop and give them new tools to manage this their emotions!  Shoot me a text at 234-206-0946 or an email at and get scheduled today!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946 

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