WinningState- Football

From the book WinningState-Football (

 The following is my summary of the key points of the book. The purpose is to provide a quick reference for others in the development of a strong mental state.



Everyone gets nervous performing in public. The goal is to use the nervous energy to our advantage.


PHYSICAL sweat is not enough.


Performance athletes on all levels, including professionals who are physically skilled, strong and conditioned HESITATE in high-pressure situations….repeatedly.  If physical was enough, then this would NOT happen.


Athletes must train and develop these 2 areas equally...PHYSICAL and MENTAL abilities.



  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Agility


  •  Process
  •  Focus points
  •  Rituals
  •  Adrenaline
  •  Energy

Mental toughness is what’s needed to think clearly and competently when our heart is pounding and our mind is racing.


Physical toughness is pushing through pain and fatigue; it’s not being a physical wimp.


Mental toughness dealing with nerves and distractions.


We must shift our perspective to relying on mental toughness skills to handle the nerves, not physical sweat.


All of us have the genes to handle the nerves; the task is to become mentally tough by developing our mental game so we can focus.


The amygdala controls the nerves in the’s the instinct of fight or flight. It’s purpose is to “save our lives”. It creates adrenaline and creates confusion. 


We are either in control or out of control of our nerves and body. The are dominated by a belief of success or negative nonsense and doubt. We control our reaction either with our left brain or right brain.


A left brain response to nerves is level-headedness, mentally tough and doubt free.

A right brain reaction to nerves is apprehensive, doubt, mentally weak and hesitant.


Everyone gets nervous performing in public. The goal is to use the nervous energy to our advantage.


3 Doubt Demons

Nerves are not the enemy. There are three “doubt demons” that are the enemy. As competitors wanting to deliver flawless execution, we must know exactly what gets under our skin.


Demon of Inadequacy- mental images of our weaknesses


Demon of Past Failure- reminder of our poor performances


Demon of Embarrassment- thoughts of potential humiliation


Interestingly this self-doubt and these demons are hardwired into our existence as part of our self-preservation response. They are to help us avoid danger and seek safety. However you must learn how to manage them so you can perform at top levels.


Navy Seals- Mental Toughness

To become a Seal, you must endure confrontations and challenges while being physically and mentally present.


Imagine being in a 15 ft swimming pool and someone taking your air away from you…and if you surface, you lose… would you handle?


GREAT 16 minute video on how the Navy Seals have learned and developed mental toughness in their training. A clear example that success is NOT just physical ability but equally about MENTAL toughness.


Navy Seal Training for Mental Toughness


 Navy Seal Method:  

  • Goal Setting- set small goals that you focus on achieving (e.g. make it to lunch; make it dinner)
  • Visualization- see yourself succeeding
  • Positive Self Talk- Tell yourself you can do it and believe it…no negative self talk
  • Arousal Control- use breathing (long slow breathing) to manage emotional control

1) SWITCH- Get Fierce


The Goal: Mental Toughness Under Pressure


The goal is to build a mentally tough mental game that skillfully handles the nerves and nails execution.


The goal is to be a mental game giant.


Compete Mentally Tough!


Become skilled at switching from friendly to confrontational.


Competition demands it! Mentally tough athletes leave Mr. Nice Guy in the parking lot.


All of us have Little Dog reactions and Big Dog responses to challenges of performing in public.


A Little Dog is fearful and apprehensive.  Little dogs fear the spotlight, can’t think, comes emotionally unglued, and meltdowns. 


A Big Dog is fearless and brave.


Under pressure, our Big Dog welcomes the spotlight, keeps a level head, draws on success, and boldly executes.


Doubt free execution!


We all have a Big Dog waiting to come out!


In social settings, our fierce Big Dog can quickly escalate from being assertive to being overly aggressive. Our Big Dog is often associated with being out of control. This is not the objective of being a big dog. Be FIERCE but in CONTROL!


Adrenaline is our superman juice that is released to protect us. It’s predictable, reliable and our friend. However we must control it.  The Little Dog reacts by allowing the adrenaline to become self doubt. Our Big Dog responses are to channel the  adrenaline into self belief and conviction.


So we want to climb into our first big dog attitude and control adrenaline.  This requires mental toughness vocabulary, specific mental pictures, and adapting.


For some of us, switching to assertive and confrontational while maintaining control of our passion is a no-brainer. But for others, our aggression, passionate side can be uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. However, all performance athletes must take on a fiercely focused competitive attitude. That’s how we fight back, compete, and win.


You must SWITCH to an Attacker or Protector…either is assertive and confrontational. 


Obstacle to achieving is confrontational attitude is overcoming our social conditioning. Most of us are condition from birth to be kind hearted, considerate and compassionate. Those social condition attitudes are the opposite of what is needed to succeed in competition.


Competing is aggressive, territorial,  and very revealing. There’s only one trophy and one rule: It must be taken!Permission is not required, nor will it ever be given.


Switch to a Big Dog attacker or protector attitude so you can compete and win not just participate. 


Mentally tough athletes don’t allow their mind to be dominated by social conditioning or doubt.


To succeed under pressure, you must have a go-to process, a ritual to switch to the part of us that will bravely step up, face the heat, and  boldly compete. One way to get our mind to switch from friendly to competitive is picturing fierceness.



Fierceness is an intensely determined, deliberate mindset – a level-head, focused mindset that turns our Superman juice into an advantage – a single minded attitude that’s only concern is fighting back and winning.


A fierce, deliberate, doubt-free attitude is what separates those that get it done from those who don’t.


Mr. Nice Guy- The everyday YOU

  • Friendly
  • Modest
  • Agreeable
  • Giving


Big Dog Fierce Guy- The Competitive YOU

  • Confrontational
  • Bold
  • Assertive
  • Selfish

Fierceness comes from attitude, not anger.  We block out everything except the objective, being completely focused and in the present.


When competing, make it crystal clear in your mind that you are entering a HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT and leaving safety behind. 

2- NARROW- Eliminate Distractions


And unfocused mind gets overwhelmed by GameDay chaos


If we can NOT systematically narrow our focus to just play and believe in ourselves, then poor performances will be the result.


Blocking out distractions is a simple, repeatable process in which 1) we must be mentally active and 2) we must narrow our concentration to three battle zones, specific focus points, and adrenaline routines.


We must have targets to focus on in order to focus.


 The big 3:

  • Self talk
  • Visualize
  • Adapt

The 3 Battle Zones technique and the SMS sequence are going to be our mental weapons.


3 Battle Zones:


First we shrink the stadium down to 3 battle zones to 1) make every stadium is familiar as possible to play in and 2) restrict our focus to our job at each battle zone:


  • the locker room,
  • the sidelines,
  • the field. 


  • Present SITUATION,
  • key MECHANICS, and our
  • Big Dog SUCCESS (SMS).


SMS Sequence:




The situation is constantly changing, so we need to be constantly assessing what should I be doing right now?


“What’s the situation?” Is the question that becomes an automatic part of our game day process, it’s our go to mental activity.


We don’t require coach to plug us into the situation; we plug ourselves in by being mentally active and asking yourself questions.


We can create endless situation scenarios, but every game time scenario requires being in the present and adapting by thinking with a level head, assessing the situation, making positive decisions, and then putting those decisions and actions. 




Our mechanics are the easiest thought category to understand and focus on because we know our mechanics better than anything else.


We just need to formally organize our physical mechanics, our go- to skills, so we can easily think about them when distractions and emotions are robbing us of our focus.


Make your primary physical fundamentals clear your mind, so you can easily think about them when under pressure. 





Great mental athlete view success as pushing through apprehension and overcoming doubt.


When we suck it up and let our big dog out and take a risk, that success.


From this moment on the very aware of your overcoming-doubt experiences, your Big Dog Success, both on and off the field. 


 3 Battle Zones


The three bottle zones are physical locations.


These three physical locations are where we spend most of our time accomplishing 2 things; 1) we make every stadium familiar and comfortable playing as possible and 2) we restrict our focus on the job in each Battlezone.


Point: We make every stadium home by stacking out our territory and knowing our job at each Battlezone. 


3 Battle Zones:

  • Locker Room
  • Sidelines
  • Field 

Locker Room: The locker room is where we get comfortable chill out and rest rest rest.


Side Lines:


The side lines can be a very challenging Battlezone area.


On the sideline , we stay calm and relaxed and focus on our warm-up routine. 


Stay loose, mentally alert, and conserve energy.


We breathe and stretch. Get lots of oxygen. We coach ourselves up with factual self talk, push the play button, and visualize our big dog highlight reel


Use the time on the sidelines wisely. Do not jump around wasting energy. Have a plan and be mentally active. 




When it’s time, we either let our “big dog”or a “little dog” step on to the playing field. We wanna make sure we are in control and using a Grrrr FACTOR to get the big dog out.


We must prepare for the intensity of the spotlight, because spotlights are intense, confusing and turn us inside out.


The key to handling the heat is mentally rehearsing for those intense, uncomfortable feelings of being completely alone and being stared at. When we rehearse being the center of attention, that “space” becomes more familiar and less intense, and we can get out of our own way and do what have trained so hard to do: play tough and compete. 



Eliminate distractions

Handle the nerves




3- FUEL- Power Your Performance



What do you think of food, what comes to mind, taste or energy? EAT to win! Become skilled at fueling for competition. Fueling is critical!


Getting our conditioning in is important for a quick recovery, but high-octane fueling is just as important.


Eliminate sugar!


Think of food more functionally (what you need) than emotionally (what you want), especially for games.


Food types: carbs, fats, proteins

Sources: fresh or processed


Use your fuel to fire start a competitive bonfire.


Simple carbs are the paper or the grass because simple carbs burn quickly and easily Complex carbs are the twigs because complex carbs are denser and burn at a slower pace. Fats are the dry logs because fats have twice energy as carbs. Fats are the coal that our competitive bonfires are built on.


Make food choices to fuel your competitive bonfire instead of thinking only about flavor.


Our Decision Making Machine


Our bodies don’t give out first, our minds give out first. Our Will (our Grrr factor) and our Superman juice require actual gas.


Our decision making machine (our brain) consumes 20% of our total available energy, but what’s more important is that our brain cannot store energy, it is completely dependent on a continuous new supply from the blood stream.


Our mind and body need pure energy from two carbs (simple and complex) and good fats. Simple carbs are quick carbs and burn like paper and complex carbs burn slower, like twigs.


As competitors wanting to excel, we need a small amount of simple and a large amount of complex. Complex carbs (like twigs) are from natural whole grains (bread and pasta), brown rice and some fresh vegetables. Fats are the least understood but the most important fuel for burning a roaring bonfire. Our bodies love fat because it’s concentrated, dense energy. There’s twice as much caloric energy in 1 g of fat than there is in 1 g of carbohydrates. Fats are the dry logs for a body’s competitive bonfire.


Sugar is Devastating


Sugars are part of the carb family, but not all sugars are created equal. We need natural sugar not refined sugar. Refined sugars can be devastating to competitive concentration, physical timing, and endurance.


Sugary foods like donuts, candy bars, soda pops and sports drinks are all bad! Instead of drinking sugary energy drinks,





Proteins are the wet green wood of the bonfire….they are good before game day but not the max energy source on game day.


You need complex carbs and fats on game day. Fruit, whole grains, nuts, water, peanut butter, cheese sticks are all excellent Game day fuel choices.


Winning athletes follow the thinking that competing mentally tough under pressure and getting it done requires high-performance fueling. Winning athletes think of food more functionally than emotionally.