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Focus On What You Want

Hey guys, this is Olympian Jonathan Edwards with AthleteSpecific.com and I appreciate you being here.  I hope you enjoyed last week’s video on changing the game and why You Can’t Change the Game.

This week I want to kind of dovetail off of that a bit and talk about focusing on what you want as opposed to focusing on what you don’t want.  This always surprises me.  You know, a lot of well-meaning parents or coaches will talk about, they’ll make casual comments on how, oh, you know, ‘your team never gets the breaks,’ or ‘the ball never bounces your way,’  or ‘don’t do this as opposed to  do that,’ and I’ll share with you a really interesting story.  This was a true story that happened to me when I was playing lacrosse a long time ago.  

It Worked Every Day In Practice

Our team was down by a goal with about a minute left and one of the things that our coach did which was always kind of fun.  We worked on this special play.  And it was this special play that was designed to get our buddy, Zach, the ball.  And Zach, I was the goalie, and what was always fun was that in practise, the team would always run this play.  I was playing first, obviously, first D, against the first offense. And so, they’d run this play, Zach would always end up getting this clear shot at the net and I was always excited about that.  Zach would rip it and it was him against me and it was always fun.  Zach would always get a really good shot off and I would have to make a really good save.  

Game Day

So, in this game, we were playing a team that wasn’t as good as us and we were kind of playing down to their level.  Just an off day for us as a team.  So we’re down by a goal and coach calls a timeout and, what are we going to do? We’re going to run that play that we always run.  So coach gets out the white board, writes it up and we’re just basically going over what we already know.  We already know how to do it.  We’re going to run the play we run in practice.  Zach is going to get the ball.  Zach’s going to get a shot off.  Now, the other goalie was not as good as I was, and not to brag, but we were pretty confident that Zach was going to get the ball and get the shot off and get a goal and tie it up, maybe go into overtime, whatever.  

Don’t Miss

The Timeout ends, we break the huddle, Zach is walking away and Coach says this, “Hey, Zach! Don’t miss!”  And, well, what do you think happened?  Ref blows the whistle, we run the play, Zach gets the shot, and what’d he do,  he missed.  Zach never missed in practise.  What happened there was that the coach put this image in Zach’s head of missing.  You’re brain can’t process a negative.  So, if I tell you, don’t miss, or if I tell you don’t think of a pink polar bear, you’re thinking of a pink polar bear, right?  It may take you a second, but you will.  

Sarcasm Can Mean Disaster

What happened there was, Coach, just jokingly, put in his head “Hey, Zach don’t miss!”  What is Zach seeing in his mind’s eye?  He’s seeing missing.  Sure enough, he did what his mind saw and he missed.  Now, what always floors me, parents, coaches, other athletes say kind of sarcastically, they’ll say things like ‘Hey, don’t miss” or “Don’t let him beat you.”  Right?  And what ends up happening is that the athlete’s mind focuses on that thing that they don’t want to have happen and, guess what, it usually happens.

The Drift

I’ll give you another example.  In Race Car Driving, when you learn how to drive a race car what you learn how to do is drift the car.  An uncontrolled drift is a spin.  What happens is, a driver is taught to recognize the drift.  Basically, the back wheels come around but then the driver is taught to focus on where he wants the car to go.  If a car is drifting, looking like it is going to hit the wall, the driver doesn’t look at the wall, because what ends up happening is that the body just doesn’t know how to not steer away from that wall and usually goes right into it.  The driver’s taught to steer where they want the car to go, and then what happens is that the brain helps the body basically do what it needs to do to get that car to go and straighten out and go where they want it to go.  That’s a really cool metaphor.  

What You Can Do To Help

If you are an athlete, or  a parent or coach watching this, what are you doing  to help your athlete focus on what it is they want versus what it is they don’t want?  A comment as casual as “Oh, the big guy on the other team always runs around our guys.”  Well, ok, whatever.  What we should be saying is, wow, when that big guy gets the ball our team always rallies around each other and knows how to defend against that guy.   Right?  That’s a much more positive vision,  a much more successful vision than focusing on the image of that big guy running around everybody and scoring.  Right?  

You’re Never Good In The Rain

You know it’s athletes when they focus on, you know, I’m never good in the rain.  Well, really?  If you’re reinforcing that and thinking about that then you’re never going to be good in the rain. Whereas if you say, hey, you know what?  I’m great in all conditions.  You know what, I’m good in all conditions.  Well, what do you do to be good in all conditions?  Well, when it rains, I do this, this, and this. And that gives me the best chance to be successful in the rain.  Right?  Or if it’s cold out, this always fascinates me.

Tom Brady v. Peyton Manning

One last story for you, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, I love talking  about Tom Brady, I’m a Patriots fan, so love him or hate him, you know he would always go up in these epic battles against Peyton Manning in the cold, and Peyton Manning had a history of not being very good in the cold, and everybody would remind Peyton that, hey, your stats aren’t as good in the cold as they are in warm weather, What’s the matter?  So the media all the time would say, hey, you’re going to New England, you’re going to play in the cold.  All they were doing is reinforcing in his head how bad he is in the cold.  I feel like professional athletes are always amazing because all they’re getting peppered with all the time is negative questions from the media.  “Hey, the stats say that you’re not very good in this situation.”  They’d be like “Well, thank you, I really don’t need to know that because I’m focusing on being good in that situation.”

What You Can Do

So, what is it for you?  What are some of the things that you say to yourself or maybe if you’re a parent or a coach watching this,  what do you say to your athlete sarcastically like ‘Hey, we’re never really good in this situation.’   That doesn’t help me.  Help me focus on the things that help me see myself being better in that situation.  Okay?


“Your brain can not process a negative.  Focus on what you want and NOT on what you don’t want.”

“A sarcastic Coach or Parent can put negative thoughts in an athlete’s mind without even considering the negative repercussions. Always envision your athlete with a positive outcome.  And reinforce those positive visions.”



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