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​Do you want to show your best on game day? Are you getting an edge over your opponents with your mental game? Use the 6 questions below to find out.

Your mindset can either help your performance or hold you back. Use these questions to figure out how you might be holding yourself back with your mental game and get an advantage over your competitors.

Think about your mindset on game day. Ask yourself these 6 questions and use the tips and exercises to improve your mental game and maximize your potential.

1. Am I in the zone?

The zone is your winning mindset. It is when you are in your ideal mood, you have the right intensity, your mind is focused on how to play well and your game plan, you are using helpful thoughts, and your confidence is high. You are mentally and physically prepared to compete and overcome any obstacles you will face.

If you can get in the zone consistently you will perform consistently, stay focused on what you have to do and manage the pressure. The most important benefit is that you will perform the same in games as you do in practice. You will be ready to compete from the start and show your potential. To achieve this you need a pre-game routine.

A pre-game routine can include mental training strategies such as relaxation, visualization, reviewing your goals, listening to music and positive thinking. A lot of athletes have a physical routine but often forget to add a mental routine. You need a plan for the night before, the morning of, traveling to the game, warm up and right before you compete. For each step write down what you are doing physically and mentally. You want to decide what you are going to think about and focus on at each stage. As you get closer to game time you want to have less and less thoughts and be very focused on a few specific points. Read this post to develop your own pre-game routine.

2. Am I confident?

Confidence is a key factor in achieving peak performance. In order to perform at your best you need the optimum level of belief in your skills. On game day you need to focus on maintaining your own optimum level of confidence. You can increase and maintain confidence in many ways including: positive thinking, focusing on what you are doing well and, remembering your strengths.

One great exercise you can do is to remember past successful performances. Think of 3 past performances where you overcame a difficult situation and were still able to perform to your best. It is also great to have images in your head of what you achieved. You will believe you can overcome anything and perform your best in any situation. You can bounce back quickly from mistakes and you will make less mistakes overall.

3. Am I over-thinking?

Don’t psych yourself out right before you are going to play. It is common to start worrying about what will happen and second guess your game plan. This can make you feel unprepared and nervous. Your warm-up may not feel right or something seems “off” and this gets stuck in your head. It is important to stay calm and to trust in the preparation you have done in practice. It doesn't help to continue to work on or master your skills just before a game.

Don’t worry about how your performance looks or feels. Empty your mind of everything except for a few key points and your game plan. This is what we call a quiet mind and often leads to being in the zone where athletes experience most of their best performances. You can achieve this with mental training techniques such as helpful thoughts, deep breathing and visualization. You will be focused on what you need to do and will feel calm and composed.

4. Am I focused on the present?

Our minds can only focus on so much. When you focus on something not happening right then it means you will not be fully focused on the current play and can’t perform your best. Thinking about the past or the future is a distraction.

Refocus quickly when you realize you are worried about the future or frustrated about the past. If you can train your mind on how to focus on the present moment you will perform your best more often. You need to focus on how to play well in the current point and your game plan. This will help you to control the nerves and manage the pressure. To do this you can use a refocusing routine. This is a short series of mental and physical steps that you can follow every time you need to refocus. To develop your own refocusing routine read this post.

5. Am I ready to embrace the pressure?

You play your best when you’re having fun and feeling happy. Don’t take it too seriously or put too much pressure on yourself. When you put pressure on yourself it causes you to doubt your skills and can leads to nerves and choking.

If you can embrace the pressure and challenges you will enjoy playing. When you encounter a tough situation challenge yourself to see how well you can do. Don’t lose sight of the big picture and remember you can always learn something no matter what happens. You will have more fun if you focus on what you are doing well and your strengths. Don’t hold on to what is going wrong, make corrections and use your strengths to perform better.

6. Am I focused on the process?

During game day it is easy to get caught up in the score or how much you want to win. This can be common especially during difficult situations such as when you are behind during a game or if you are trying to close out a match. To play your best you need to focus on the process of playing well. For example this could be specific technical points, your goals or your game plan.

Set process not outcome goals to focus on while playing. Refocus on these when you recognize you are distracted by the score. Remember you can’t control the score or your opponent, you can only control you. Focusing on the process means you are focusing on things in your control. This will prevent you from putting pressure on yourself and getting too nervous. You will be calm and confident. You will be able to overcome nerves and reach peak performance.

Key points:

  • Staying calm and composed is key to performing your best on game day

  • Use a pre-game routine to get in the zone consistently

  • Maintain your confidence at its optimum level by using various positive thinking techniques

  • Trust in your preparation and keep a quiet mind

  • Staying in the present helps to manage your emotions and embrace the pressure

  • Develop a refocusing routine to stay in the present

  • Embrace the pressure and challenge yourself

  • When playing, focusing on the process rather than the outcome improves performance

  • Have fun!

If you want to get more tips and exercises, sign up for my free newsletter here. You will receive my free e-book: Top Ten Mental Mistakes Athletes Make In Competition: What Every Athlete, Coach and Parent Need To Avoid To Improve Mental Toughness. Plus you get the strategies top athletes use to become mentally tough and get an edge over their opponents.

If you would like more customized tips and an individualized mental training plan you can Contact Me here. You can also find out more about my services and why you should work with me on my Services Page here.

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Zoe Littlewood, M.A. -
Sport Psychology Consultant & Mental Skills Coach

Zoe specializes in working with individuals, teams, parents and coaches to produce performance enhancement, mental toughness and a winning mindset.

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