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Want to Win? Every Performance Needs a Practice(d) Plan!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #109 – Watch or listen HERE.

If you are reading this, I am going to assume you love to compete. I do, too!

I have toned it down as I have aged, but I still like to win.

One place I win a lot is in my backyard.

Yes, you read that right!

I bet you are thinking I win against my 10-year-old, and I am now bragging about that. If you read Tip #106, you know that ship has sailed, in the pool, at least.

I may still be the backyard champion in our competitions, but that isn’t who I am beating this time!

I win at a game called Kubb. I should be more specific and say, my Kubb partner, Annette and I win at Kubb.

In fact, we often kick our opponents' %@#! Keep in mind that our opponents are also the people we live with, so rubbing it in their faces isn’t always a good idea.

As we were playing this weekend, Annette and I were on a roll, and Kris and Mishelle (the losers) were pulling out all the stops.

They played with glasses on, then glasses off. They tried hysterical distraction techniques. They rolled their eyes, threw their hands in the air, and tried different techniques. And of course, they trash-talked.

Think kids playing and sour grapes and you have the full picture. All in good fun, of course.

The backyard game we learned to keep ourselves sane during COVID has all the components of competition and performance.

There is a winner and a loser. There are internal distractions – those thoughts that happen to us.

And as noted above, the game within the game, the external distractions from the losers 😊!

You get on a roll, then you can’t hit the broad side of a barn. You are pumped because you make a play, then dejected because you miss the simplest shot.

You gain momentum just to see it evaporate back to wherever it came from.

Sound familiar?

In so many ways, all games (performances) are the same.

At the crux of every performance, there is a goal. There is a human trying to reach the goal. And that human has a body and a brain.

The human’s body has been trained to do the physical skills it needs to succeed in the performance.

The human’s brain is trained to survive.

This means it is sensitive to distractions so it can protect itself (just in case there is a tiger getting ready to attack as it gathers food…since we do this so often anymore 😊).

This pits the human’s brain against the human’s body. Both can do what needs to be done, but one tends to get distracted, which often inhibits the other from doing what it is trained to do.

We don’t practice playing Kubb, nor are we world-class competitors, but our bodies can do the physical skill needed to play our backyard game.

Our opponents are obviously well versed in the effects of distraction and use the techniques to their advantage (we still win, however 😊).

They know, as do we, that the real game is played in our heads. The bad part is that the distractions that our opponents throw our way pale in comparison to what is going on inside our amazing, yet frustrating brains.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but prior to most first shots I take in my backyard, I visualize my dowel rod knocking over the Kubb (this is the object of the game, btw and I am a mental performance coach so everything I see and do is research 😊).

Sometimes I hit one, sometimes I don’t.

But here is what I have observed in my backyard mental performance lab.

When I prepare my mind to throw, when I follow my process – my mental process – my physical process is much more successful.

When I miss and rush my next throw, it is almost always a bust. Notice I said I visualize prior to each FIRST shot I take – you get three – so what am I doing on the next two?

I am usually talking about why I missed (i.e, making excuses), getting cocky when I hit or thinking about the physical adjustments I need to make to hit on the next shot.

Even thinking about the physical adjustment isn’t always good, believe it or not! There is a time and a place!

But, when I pause, take a breath, visualize my throw and watch the Kubb fall in my mind, I am in a much better place, both mentally and physically, to be successful. Notice, in this process, there is no analysis, commentary or boasting.

It is a process - a focused process. It is not thinking about detail. It is being present, regardless of what happened or what might happen next.

Again, it is not a magic pill or potion. I am just setting myself up to have a chance at success.

Some days I am better than others at following this simple process. For some shots I am better than others. Sometimes I want to laugh or gloat or talk while I shoot. It is a backyard game after all.

Sometimes I am more intentional and focused than others. I bet if we practiced (or really cared) we could be much more consistent (the physical training is still critical for success, of course!).

But the bottom line is this.

When I am able to walk to the line to throw and I am actually focused on what I am trying to do instead of the dorks at the other end of the court trying their best to get in my head…or what will happen if I miss…or what I am trying not to do…or making a million adjustments to my arm swing (like I know what I am doing)…or anything other than knocking down the Kubb, I am much more successful!

We each get three chances to knock down a Kubb.

If we can keep our first shot from affecting the next two, we will be better.

If we don’t, our chances of being successful on this shot go down. I can’t tell you what percentage you lose, but if we aren’t focused on the shot, we won’t make it. It’s that simple!

Since our opponents and our own brain are wired to distract us, we must have a plan.

The plan can be ridiculously simple. It just needs to keep THIS SHOT in the forefront of our minds.

This does not mean we need to think (or overthink).

Practicing our plan takes thinking out of the equation and replaces it with focused attention that is helpful to our performance.

Just like anything else, if we don’t do it, it won’t work. More importantly, if we don’t practice it, it is not a habit. And when pressure comes, we don’t rise to meet the pressure, we fall back on our habits.

If our habits are good, we can be good. If they aren’t good…you get the picture.

We have to work to focus. We have to work to be present. We have to work to be our best.

And we can practice the skills we need in the craziest of places, including our backyards!

All games are the same. And we are more the same than different. This practice of implementing a plan will help EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US manage our distracted brains!

I can’t wait to play again. Now I have to live up to my process…and I am certain I’ll take a bit more abuse in our next “friendly” game!

Manage the moments and have a great week!


P.S. Want a set plan for weekly mental work? Contact me at any time to talk about how we can help your athletes through my 5 Minute Mindset™ program and customized team sessions to keep them on track in their mental game. Email me at or call/text 234-206-0946.

Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946


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