5 Ways To Keep Your Head In The Game

Have you ever played below your ability because you weren’t confident, you feared failure or you allowed your frustration to get the better of you?

It’s easy to blame other factors when things go wrong, but often it is our own mental skills that lets us down.

Most of the time it is ourselves that gets in the way of playing our best.

The mental aspect was something that national coaches spoke about a lot and became a huge factor of my success as a sport person.

It was during the Olympics when I realised that my mindset was the main reason I had achieved what many only dream about.

A lot of players think that skills are the most important part in sport and although it is certainly an important part, from experience I believe it’s the mental part that can give players an advantage. 

Everyone knows the importance of the mental game in sport, but few actually understand it.

Without confidence and believe in your ability, you will probably not get as far as you can because:

“If you can’t convince yourself, you definitely won’t convince others”

The good news is that just like any other physical skills, your mental skills can also be trained.

Fear of failure stops a lot of people from achieving their goals, but the few who know how to deal with fear are able to use it effectively and they’re the ones that go on to reach their potential and play in higher teams.

Training your mind is not about something being wrong with you.

We all come with a default factory setting so to become a champion you first have to learn how to think like a champion

You do this by training your mind to be successful. 

Mental game training is about getting more out of your performance and playing closer to your best more often (i.e. improving your consistency).

It’s often the small percentages that can make the biggest differences.

5 Ways To Keep Your Head In The Game

#1. Don’t psych yourself out before the game

We often worry more about what might go wrong before the game even starts, than thinking about what might go well. I call these the “what if’s” – such as ‘what if I don’t play well’ or ‘what if we don’t win’ for example.

what if

Instead of worrying about what might go wrong focus on what might go well. Maybe you use a new skills that you’ve been working on in the game today or what if we beat this team that are so much better than us.

#2. After you make a mistake, move on

In hockey I have missed many open goal opportunities before, just like any striker has but it is how quickly you can move forward and get ready for the next opportunity.

If you’re still thinking about the last mistake you made, you will probably miss the next one too. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes, rather focus on getting the basics right next time.

#3. Don’t get hung up on things you can’t control

Too often people focus too much on things that they can’t control. For example: umpiring, coaching decisions, the final result, spectators, the weather, pitch condition, who you’re playing, what others do or say, etc.


Try not to over-react or get frustrated by bad umpire calls, it is not something you can control. Rather draw your attention to things you can control, like putting in 100% effort and being having a good attitude.

#4. Good communication with yourself

We all have conversations with ourselves on a daily basis in our own heads. Many people say negative things about themselves without even realising it because they’re so used to that way of thinking.

For example do you ever think:self talk

  • “I am rubbish”
  • “I am such an idiot”
  • “I can’t do that”

How would your mates like it if you said those things to them? 

Remember that your mind communicates with your body which affects your body language, your behaviour and ultimately your performance. 

Become more aware of the conversation you’re having with yourself and try to keep it positive.

#5. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Everyone makes mistakes and no-one is perfect so don’t go into games expecting to play perfectly or you will always be disappointed.

It is more about how you react to the mistakes that you make that really counts.

You need to make mistakes in order to learn so accept that they are going to happen and be ready to learn from them.

‘Top sports people continually work on their mental game’

Mental training isn’t just for the elite level players, it is something that can help anyone who wants to get more out of their sport.

Every player I have worked with has provided testament to the difference that mental training has made to their game.

If you want to be more confident, manage frustration or take your game to the next level, request a FREE breakthrough session here


If you play sport then you need this so that you play to your potential more consistently:

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About The Author

Lauren Penny

An ex-International Hockey Player, Performance Coach, Mentor & Motivational Speaker. Passionate about helping sports athletes and coaches improve performance, build confidence and unleash the hidden potential that we all have within us. Lauren prepares people for success.