How To Stop Letting Your Brain Ruin Your Game

Iron Octopus

Humans, by and large, are a pessimistic bunch.

Aren’t we? We spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about how things can go wrong. What we’re doing wrong. Why we can’t get anything right. And these thoughts show up in two ways:

  1. We FEEL terrible. Because we’re constantly stressing, mostly about things we can’t control which sucks.
  2. We SEE those horrific consequences more often. When you’re thinking about something specific, you’re more likely to notice when that thing happens. And assign it more importance than it might warrant just because it was already on your mind.

When I was pregnant with #autotot, I suddenly saw pregnant women everywhere. Had my own personal fertility impacted the fertility of my entire town?


Of course not.

That’s ridiculous.

I simply started noticing the fact that there are always insane amounts of pregnant women existing on the planet.

It was a new thought that I was using to filter my reality. Pregnancy was on my mind (for obvious reasons) and so I started seeing pregnancy EVERYWHERE. Pregnant women, small kids, car seats, ‘Baby on Board’ bumper stickers. All of it.

You attract what you think about.

It’s as true for pregnant women as it is for everyone else, you attract what you think about. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a magnet for other women experiencing the joys of uterine parasites, but it DOES mean that I’m more likely to see and engage with those women.

Let me flip it for you.

Remember the first couple of times you tried to pass your minimum skills? And all you could think was “Don’t screw up, don’t screw up, don’t screw up”? My guess is that you noticed every little thing that you DID screw up.

You also beat yourself up about it for days on end.

What about that time you heard Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova” playing over the speakers at the gym, commented on how you hadn’t heard that song in a million years, and the proceeded to hear it 17 other times in the next week?

Oasis isn’t stalking you. Probably. Your brain is assigning a higher value to each instance of hearing Oasis because you’re already thinking about Oasis.

Just like your brain will assign a higher value to every instance in which you mess up if all you’re thinking about is messing up.

Albert Einstein once said that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Whether you believe certain precepts of that statement or not, your mind is more likely to notice and reinforce the things that you’re already thinking about.

And, if you’ve already had one point of reinforcement, (like Oasis played in your car the day after you heard it at the gym) you’re likely to be tuned into noticing, even more, instances of the same thing.

Stop Thinking Shitty Thoughts

Let’s return back to those glory days of your minimum skills. When you were constantly repeating: “Don’t screw up, don’t screw up, don’t screw up” you were giving the idea of your screw ups a lot of weight. Your brain is now clued into looking for what you’re thinking about which means it will notice EVERY. LITTLE. SCREW. UP.

That’s going to make you feel great, isn’t it?

The key executing the way that you want to, seeing and celebrating your small successes, and keep your mental shit together in a game comes down to re-training your brain to think of what you want to see. Not what you DON’T want to see.

Think Good Thoughts

The morning after every game that I play, I sit down and identify the 1-3 biggest things I want to focus on at practices in the next month help improve my performance.

During my last game, the following 3 things needed the most work:

  1. COMMUNICATION. Speaking to my teammates in actual words to help us react to situations together more quickly.
  2. WATCHING THE LINES. It’s laughable (*sad laugh*) how many times a jammer or goated blocker got by me on one line or the other.
  3. STOP GIVING THE OPPOSING TEAM MY SIDE. First, I like my ribs whole and hearty. Secondly, I’m much easier to move that way. And third, turning opens up way too much space.

Then, I look at each goal and I narrow it down to the ONE SKILL I need to focus on to become more effective in that area. It’s important here that when you’re narrowing it down, you focus on what you can control. Obviously, one of my overarching goals is “Don’t let the jammer through” but trying to control what the jammer does is ultimately futile.

You can only control what you do.

In terms of the goals above:

  1. TALK MORE. Make sure that I’m communicating what I’m doing and thinking and planning.
  2. STICK TO THE LINES BETTER. So that no sneaky jammers can burn me on them.
  3. STAY FACING FOWARD. That’s my strongest blocking position and opens up the fewest holes.

Each of the above is things that I can control about what I’m doing on the track. They’re worded positively telling my brain and my body what they SHOULD be doing at any given time. This keeps your brain from having to translate thoughts like “don’t turn sideways” into the actual physical movement of facing forward. Remember, in the heat of battle you’re only going to sift through a minimum of data. “Don’t turn sideways” can quickly become “turn sideways”.

Tell your brain and body exactly what to do and there’s less room for misunderstandings.

Now each one of those goals becomes a short mantra you can repeat to yourself that keeps you focused on WHAT YOU SHOULD DO when you are playing.


These thoughts now act as your anchors to the skills and behaviors you’re aiming to exhibit on the track. Whenever you start to clam up, inch away from the line, or turn sideways, use these thoughts to attract what you want.

We’ve all experienced that impossible situation where a jammer is pushing against us and we just…can’t…stop. For whatever reason, our brakes are broken and we’re careening out of control. Then, someone in your wall yells, “PLOW!” and all of the sudden your brakes are back. You’re sinking down into the stop. You’ve slowed the jammer. You’re back in control.

Think what about what you want to do and do it.

Want more?

The 5-week solution to getting out of your head, building your confidence, and keeping your focus where you need it.

Here’s how it’s going to shake out:

  • #mindsetmonday → I’ll be giving you a mindset focus for the week. Something that you can carry over into your life, your job, your training, and/or your athletic practice.
  • #walkthewalkwednesday → On Wednesdays, we wear pink. And put into practice a specific tool to work on the mindset focus for the week.
  • #followupfriday → Get ready to reflect on how you did. You won’t ever have to share (unless you want to) but part of improving your mental toughness and mindset will be evaluating how things went.

Grab the Mental Toughness Manual by signing up below!


About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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