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What Are You Missing While You're in THE GAP?

Mindset Made Simple Tip #136 – Watch or listen HERE and subscribe while you are there!

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My assistant walked into my office with a smile and a clipboard. She said "this says it's unbreakable. Doubt it!"

Very funny, JJ!

Throughout my career, I was very fortunate to have several former players work on my staff. They knew me well and knew that I was...we'll call it...passionate!

I hate to admit it, but finding an unbreakable clipboard was a good thing for our program.

Let’s just say it’s a good thing I coached softball and not the fast-paced game of basketball. “Raving lunatic” comes to mind had that happened!

Not unlike the athletes we coach, I, too, had to learn (and am continuing to learn) that when we lose it, we lose a lot more than our head!

At some point I realized that very time a clipboard broke, or an umpire got an earful, I lost not only that moment but many moments after that, too!

In working with my level soccer club last week – shout out to the Internationals Soccer Club, one of the very best in the country!! – we talked about this GAP. And I'm not talking about the clothing store we loved in the 80s and 90s! It's the space between when you get frustrated, disappointed, angry, elated, distracted, comfortable…you add in the adjective…and the time you get back to the place where you can be your best!

Change the width of the GAP and change your ability to execute.

Every time I lost it…or got caught up in past or future thinking…I wasn’t doing my job. I would get all worked up and it took way too long to get back down.


In soccer, if your GAP is 15 seconds, what can happen on the pitch in that amount of time?


Here’s the thing. Most of the athletes in this discussion admitted that their GAP could be much longer than this. One kid said hers may last 2 days!

From top-tier soccer players to young (and old) coaches, sometimes we go “there” and when we are “there” we aren’t where we need to be! Like me!

I got angry. I lost my cool. Someone had to pick up all the papers that flew off my broken clipboard and, in the meantime, the game kept going. And guess who wasn’t going with it?

Things don’t go as planned. Or things go so well that we are SO pumped, we lose sight of what is next. That’s THE GAP!

It isn’t just the “bad” stuff that fills THE GAP.

I specifically remember playing Ohio State on our field (which didn’t happen often back in the day) and they fell into THE GAP late in the game with no score. We got the leadoff on. Tried to bunt her over and they got the lead runner. They celebrated BIG TIME. While they were celebrating, we took second base since it is hard to cover bases and celebrate at the same time. So even though they made a big play, we got exactly what we wanted. The next kid up hit a walk-off triple.

The good stuff can open THE GAP, too!

If we can close THE GAP, we will perform better. We will make our team better. We will be able to use the OODA Loop and scan and snipe instead of venting and commentating about what is under our skin or getting too comfortable. (Read "Don't Get Too Comfortable" HERE)

It’s easy to see that THE GAP is an issue. Unfortunately, it’s easier to widen THE GAP than it is to close it. We're just wired that way!

We can do anything if we remember how RESOPNSE-ABLE we are! It all goes back to our 4-Step Performance Cycle and looking at what just happened as something that sharpens our tools and helps our approach rather than something that dulls our ability to perform at our peak!

Just like anything, it takes intention and practice…at practice. I often ask athletes if they have routines that can shrink THE GAP and most of them say they do. Then I ask them if they use them in practice or any other time they go “there”.


I was watching a college softball game yesterday and the starting pitcher was struggling a bit. At one point, she was waiting for the pitch to be signaled in and she lost her balance on the mound. After she steadied, she took the sign and threw the pitch. My thought was “this isn’t going to be good.” She had just swayed around, probably meaning her attention was elsewhere and kept on going. And…the pitch was right down Broadway. Fortunately, the batter didn’t capitalize. She may not be as lucky the next time.

The question I had was why didn’t she just step back and refocus to shrink THE GAP. Where did she go that allowed her to lose balance in something she does hundreds of times a day?

I have no idea where she was or if it was an issue, but the point is that we get away with being in THE GAP quite a bit. Until we don’t!

What will help you shrink THE GAP? Is it the simple three-step method refocus we use? Or is it a simple breath, word or physical action that brings you back after you acknowledge that you are frustrated, distracted, too excited, etc.?

Whatever it is, it only works if you use it! And that means you need to use it…in practice…in competition…when you are driving. Because we don’t rise to occasions. We fall back on our habits.

Armies don’t learn new tactics on the battlefield. They learn them in simulated training. We, too, must learn to rely on our mental tools in training so we are certain they are our M.O. on the battlefield!

Start to take note of your GAP. How long do you stay there? What do you miss while you are there? What can you do to shrink it?

If you need suggestions…I have them! 😊

Managing the moments and unlike the commercial that stuck in our minds in the ’80s, we’d rather not “fall into The Gap!”


P.S. I’d love to help your team shrink THE GAP! Contact me today at or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s add this tool to your arsenal!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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