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The difference between winning and losing can be just one thought!

Many years ago as a 16 year old basketball player, my team, Bolton was playing Leicester in the semi-final of the National Cup. The winner would go on to play powerhouse London Royals.

The semi final was a tough affair, with both teams giving their all but it’s the last few seconds that remind me of the difference between winning and losing.

Down by two with just a few seconds remaining, we could either tie the game or go ahead.

The ball was passed to me at the top of the key, near the three point line.

I saw the clock ticking down

This was it!

This was my moment!

As two defenders came towards me I launched a shot!

It missed…badly!

I remember my team mates throwing their arms up in frustration and disbelief!

What had I done!

I’d just lost the game!

This exact moment was the fine line between winning and losing and I ended up on the wrong side!

Over the years, I redeemed myself, hitting a couple of game winners and game tying shots, but I had to learn how to think differently.

One of the things I teach and coach players that come to me, is how to create a calm focused mind in the times when it matters because it’s been proven a calm, focused mind is more likely to make the right choice at the right time, when the pressure is on.

Back when I missed that shot, my mind was racing with so many thoughts, I wasn’t focused on the moment.

I was already thinking ahead when in fact I should have been playing in the moment and if I had been playing in the moment, I would have seen an open team mate.

Whether you’re playing E-sports or live sports at a competitive level, it’s important to learn how to be calm and focused at key moments, because whether you win or lose, can depend largely on the thought you have at that specific moment.

There are many emotions that affect an athlete’s behaviour and decisions including confidence, frustration, anger, jealousy, calmness, fear, disgust, happiness, contempt and it’s important that you know, as an athlete, your actions are led by your emotions.

So how do you train yourself to have a calm mind in key moments?

I’ll share a strategy with you now

Visualisation – Think of the last time you had a chance to win the game. Recall the emotions and feelings and behaviours you demonstrated at that time. Really connect with what you saw, heard and felt.

If the outcome was in your favour, recall that vision in all it’s glory and remind yourself at that time you made the right decision and all the thoughts, feelings and emotions you felt at that time were the right ones. Tell yourself, to repeat this feat, you can recall these emotions again.

If the outcome wasn’t in your favour, ask yourself what emotion would you replace with the one you felt and replay the scenario over in your head and attach that new emotion but with the outcome changing to be in your favour.

Emotional awareness is a powerful trait to have as an athlete and just as you train your body to be a peak performer, you can train your mind to focus at the right time.

With competition levels increasing, it’s important you gain a psychological edge over your opponents, because trust me, there are others out there, wanting to improve quickly.

You will either be left behind or you’ll stay ahead of the field.

You have a choice, you always have a choice on how you approach competition, all you have to do is think what you want…

If this post has intrigued you and you want to know more, please get in touch and let’s connect.

Mike