““Looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship,” said Cincinnati’s rookie kicker, Evan McPhereson right before he nailed the game-winning field goal in Saturday’s AFC Divisional Playoff Game.
Fast forward to Sunday’s other AFC Divisional game. We saw something similar. This time, the announcer talked about the “vision” Harrison Butker had of what was ahead of him. This was before Mahomes and Hill got the ball almost 30 yards closer to the endzone than Butker was preparing to be.
I don’t know what Butker said to himself before his game-tying field goal as time expired, but I have a pretty good idea.
I was hoping he didn’t change his vision now that the kick was much closer…much more routine…than the 57+ yarder he was expecting!
Remember, they would not have been in this situation had he hit a field goal and extra point earlier in the game!
Either way, both guys benefited from the words they say and the pictures they see.
That is what it all comes down to…all of it!
As Trevor Moawad says in It Takes What It Takes, “words are tools that predict and perpetuate performance.”
Bottom line…WHAT WE SAY AND SEE MATTERS.
The words we use matter. The pictures we see in our minds matter. Because they predict our future. Because they perpetuate our performance.
McPhereson, with the dreams of every Bengals fan on his shoulders, told himself what was going to happen. As he did that, he also saw what was going to happen in his mind’s eye.
He was priming himself for success.
Did those words guarantee success? Of course not. The wind could have blown. The snap could have been bad. The laces could have been facing the wrong way
Although not a guarantee, had he used different words…like “this is so much pressure” or “don’t hook it” he would have been priming himself for something else!
He chose to say and see what he wanted to happen instead of what he wanted to avoid!
One of the things I repeat every session with the teams and athletes I work with is that thoughts become things.
Our thoughts turn into feelings that affect our actions which not only affects our performance…but our actions are our performance which changes our results.
The words we use and the pictures we see are a manifestation of our thoughts either in our head or out loud for all to hear!
The other thing I repeat in every session is that we spend way too much time telling ourselves what we don’t want.
I ask, “do you ever go to Chipotle and tell the guy who is warming up your burrito ‘I don’t want the carnitas, I don’t want the salsa, I don’t want the rice’ and then walk away to pay?”
Of course not!
You walk into Chipotle and tell the guy WHAT YOU WANT!
Then I ask them if they ever say, “don’t miss, don’t overthrow or overshoot it, don’t look stupid, don’t embarrass yourself, don’t be too early (or late, depending on the skill)?”
If they don’t answer “yes” we all know they are telling a fib!
We say…and see …what we don’t want more than we realize.
If every time we use words in the conversations we have with ourselves or others we see pictures, we are watching ourselves do what we don’t want to do way too much!
And since our brain learns through repetition, the mental reps we are giving our brain are not good reps! They are reps that show the exact opposite of what we want and need to happen to
perform at our best!
Had either of these kickers been telling themselves what not to do, the AFC Championship game may look very different next weekend.
Ok…the words we use matter because they turn into images in our head which if repeated, affect our performance.
And, since we don’t control our thoughts, only our reaction to them, how can we manage them to improve our performance?
I have two suggestions.
I’ll start with the easy one. One of the things Moawad suggests to help improve the performance of the teams he works with is to “stop saying stupid sh#! out loud.”
This is my new favorite rule! I NEED TO FOLLOW THIS RULE and so do my teams and athletes!
Why? Because when we say stupid sh#!, our mind sees stupid sh#!…and so do the minds of everyone around us.
“This is the dumbest drill ever.” “Practice is going to suck tomorrow.”
Do you think these words are ever uttered in your locker room after you send out the practice plan? (I am sure none of my athletes ever even thought or verbalized such things…especially when the plan began with “timed mile.” 😊)
The words we use affect our minds and bodies. Just imagine if McPhereson or Butker talked about how stupid something was just before walking out to change the game.
Would the game have changed?
Telling ourselves what we want or seeing what we want isn’t a guarantee. But negative…or BS thinking is!
Helping our athletes design pre-performance routines or PPRs, can help them manage their thoughts/words/pictures.
Stress and performing skills that are so ingrained in our muscle memory sometimes leave room for disruption from internal (and external) sources.
A simple pre-performance routine…something you can implement TODAY…is to ask your athletes to SAY IT, SEE IT, DO IT!
Have them say what they want. Not what every little mechanic needs to look like (we do this too much, too!). Have them say what they want to accomplish.
Ask them to take a few seconds and “see it”, "it" being what they just said out loud, in their mind’s eye.
Then “do it.” It’s time to act.
Will it be perfect? Not necessarily.
But if they are repeating what they want twice (and our brain reacts to that by building new pathways to the muscles that do the work) before they act, why not give it a try?
In effect, they are practicing their skills before they perform them!
Both suggestions are simple. But simple isn’t always easy. They both take discipline and practice.
But just picture the benefits to the mindset of your players as they perform. Can you see it 😊?
Have a wonderful week!
P.S. I would love to share other ideas on how our words can improve our performance with your team. Schedule a team session today or check out my online courses at www.ssbperformance.com/courses
Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach
firstname.lastname@example.org • 234-206-0946