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We Are Not Our Performance!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #57

I was a college coach for 26 years…one of 286 Division I head softball coaches in the country. Then I wasn’t.

I knew I wanted to be a college coach from the age of 13.

It was a big part of who I was for years. To be truthful, it still is!

Like all coaches, before I knew I wanted to be a coach, I fell in love with a sport…a few of them actually!

Thus, I was a college athlete. Then I wasn’t.

I distinctly remember the night after my last college game. We lost in the NCAA tournament. I don’t remember who beat us. I don’t remember the score. I don’t even remember if I got a hit or how many strikeouts my NCAA strikeout leading pitcher recorded.

What I remember most is laying in the “extra bedroom” in the house I grew up in (my sister’s old room since she had long taken over my mine) and crying. I felt like I lost my best friend!

Both endings were very significant moments in my life.

As the new school year approaches, high school and college athletes all over the country aren’t thinking about endings.

If we are honest, most are thinking about starting.

But they are also heading into the year bearing the weight of internal and external expectations and goals that can make or break them…and change the endings!

Before you think that I think striving for goals like starting is unimportant (if you read these each week, you know this not to be true), let me explain why this is a scary way to think.

As I mentioned, at one point in my life I was one of 286 people that did a specific job. And one day after things didn’t go as I had planned, I decided to walk away from that life into a very different life.

I was sad. I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure what was to come or how I fit into the world in some ways.

Why? Because I had identified as a college softball coach for more than a quarter-century! Who was I if I wasn’t a head softball coach?

Fortunately, I had other roles that made me whole outside of my most public role

Two of the most pivotal endings in my life ended in a loss. A loss of a game. A loss of identity. A loss of routine, etc.

Fortunately, the most substantial parts of me were not at all affected by the losses.

Yes, both endings changed my day-to-day life. But they did not change my day-to-day character, ability to love, give and live, my ability to help and learn, or any other important things in my life!

And that is the point.

I see SO MANY athletes today think that their identity as an athlete is who they are. They play for a scholarship or a staring role as if these are the reasons we play the game.

They do not know who they are or how to manage if they don’t meet the expectations set by themselves or others in their sport.

If they don’t start, they aren’t happy.

If they don’t get a certain amount of money in scholarships, they aren’t happy.

If they have a bad practice, their day is ruined. They can’t let it go. They ruminate on their performance, role, or disappointment and allow it to affect their health and well-being.

This should come as no surprise. As mentioned in recent tips, our society sends constant subtle…and not so subtle (if you have ever heard a parent on a ride home from a game) messages to athletes that if you don’t succeed in competition, you aren’t worthy!

We feel worthy when we win. We feel worthless when we lose or when we think we didn’t measure up!

I remember the HIGHs of winning and the LOWs of losing very well! I remember those 3-win weekends and walking into the office chest high…and those 3-loss weekends feeling like I needed to sneak in the back door of the building.

But the bottom line is, if you only play to start or are only happy when you win, you are in for a disappointing life. (I would have quit coaching my very first year!)

If you think this way, you are giving away all the joy and all your power!

You are allowing things you cannot control determine your self-worth and happiness.

You don’t decide if you start, and you don’t decide you will win.

However, you can win EVERY DAY if you approach the game (or thing) you love in a slightly different way!

If you see any parts of yourself in my 3-win weekend- chest high posture or my 3-loss weekend- sneak in the door posture, you, too, might be a bit too wrapped up in your performance identity…or performance outcome.

Take a minute and write down all your roles in life. Make note of what makes you special and successful in these roles. What do you value most about performing/competing? What makes you a successful performer in your sport, your job, your role?

What do these things/characteristics say about you as a person?

Do these things change if you don’t start or don’t win?

The things that really matter don’t!

Here is the question…why is it that the one role – usually our role as an athlete – can cause total upheaval in our lives when it is not our most significant, important or permanent role?

Do you really care what others (outside of your immediate family) think about you as a sister or brother? Do expectations of you as a friend send you down the “I am so not happy…satisfied…worthy…getting what I deserve” spiral?

We tie ourselves so closely to WHAT WE DO…not WHO WE ARE!

Enjoying the process…the challenges…the relationships…the experience…the day-to-day improvements and focusing more on what we can control helps, too!

Remembering why we first started playing and first set our goals is so important to keep us true to ourselves and our performance!

As we begin this new school year, I challenge you to challenge yourself or those you lead to look a bit deeper than our performance for worthiness and to enjoy the process.

Both perspectives help take some of the pressure off and this is sure to improve performance.

If nothing else, it will make you much happier!

Have a great week!


P.S. Planning your mental training is as important as planning your competitive schedule. I would love to help your team increase its performance by teaching them the power of their minds. Give me a call or text at 234-206-0946 or send me an email at

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