The Positive CD in your head – play it, and CONQUER!!!

It happens to ALL athletes – distractions, concerns, negative thoughts. But the most consistent athletes, they control their thoughts, they conquer distractions. One of the best strategies you can use is to play A POSITIVE CD IN YOUR HEAD. It works.

CD image

A couple months ago, I had a consulting session with a multi-sport athlete; for this blog, I’ll call her Jan. She’s a high school sophomore, lean, muscular, a pure jock, and was near the end of cross-country season – her fall sport. Her dad contacted me and asked if I could help her; Jan had NOT been able to perform well. She’d been struggling all season with migraine headaches, nagging tendonitis, and feeling low about herself, especially compared to her very successful freshman year with copious accolades and attention. Now, she was in a hole.

Jan and I met. I told her that I’d experienced debilitating struggles when I was 15; I nearly quit my sport. But then I worked closely with a sports psychologist and learned important tools that helped me overcome distractions and fears.

I asked Jan: Do you have distracting thoughts? For instance… Man, everyone here is really good. Oh my gosh, she’s fast. I don’t think I’m good enough. What am I doing here? I feel slow. I have hardly any energy.

Jan said with conviction, “I have them ALL the time.” (Hmmm, just what I thought…)

I continued… There are ways to manage those thoughts. There are 6 main Mental Skills: 1) Concentration, 2) Breathing, 3) Relaxing, 4) Positive Self-Talk, 5) Recall, and 6) Visualizing. But first, let’s get simple: When things feel out of control, you need perspective…

Question: What CAN you control on your path to achieving your goals? I gave her an exercise to do on a sheet of paper. This is it, below…see THE LIST, THE MOUNTAIN, and THE EXERCISE.

THE LIST: Thoughts, Feelings, Anxiety, Nervousness, Breathing, Communication, Actions, Decisions, Sleep, Food intake, Texting/FB, Social time w friends, Accomplishing homework, Participating in family activities, Respecting yourself, Respecting others, Supplementary/extra workouts , Athletic field, Weather, Injuries, Officials, Time/clock, Opponents/competitors, Parents/rules, Others’ expectations, Coach, Teammates, Your health, Colleges you apply to, Colleges that accept you.


mountain sketch EXERCISE: WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL on your path

Write down each item (from THE LIST) that you can NOT control, put those at the bottom of the mountain. On your journey to the peak, you will leave those items behind. And write along the outside of the mountain, going upward, the items you CAN control – those are what you will take with you to the top. This exercise will make it distinctly clear what you can control.

The first item on the list is THOUGHTS. Now, instead of allowing negative and distracting thoughts to enter your mind, you need to create new thoughts. New thoughts will be POSITIVE AND TRUE FACTS and they will replace the others. So…let’s create a Positive CD you can play in your head.


I asked Jan what kind of compliments she has received. No answer. I asked, Has anyone ever told you, “You’re fast”? She smiled and said, Yes. I said, write that down. She did. We came up with two more facts so she had three total. This was the beginning of her Positive CD.


In a crowd of runners, you must control your thoughts!  (photo: Biola University)

In a crowd of runners, you must listen to your positive thoughts! (photo: Biola University)

Five days later, equipped with a Positive CD, Jan was ready. She played her positive messages in her head at the race, and she had her BEST X-Country race of the season! Wow! She came to me for a second session and we worked on the Positive CD and relaxation techniques. After that session, at her next race, she got a PR, improved 30 seconds over the week before, and made All League. Amazing! She listened to her own positive voice and conquered her distractions.

With practice, you will find that YOUR positive voice is louder than anything or anyone else. Of course, still listen to your coach, teammates, and the game plan, but balance that with being directly in tune with yourself. You will be focused, and sometimes, when you are that focused, a certain seriousness may show up on your face. I know a college gymnast who tells me, for balance beam, she puts on her Bitch Face. Which means her ultimate concentration is in action – nothing can distract her. I love that. Bitch Face. Maybe put that on your Positive CD – it will make you laugh. And that’s a good thing.

reach, sweat, and believe,


A very energetic mentor of mine, Ellie Bryant, author, and college professor in the Spalding University MFA program (where I graduated) – Ellie helped me with my Positive CD for writing! Thanks, Ellie!

Lisa & Ellie at Spalding.2006

Need your opponent, then kick her ass: Sport Community is everything

My mom and I used to pray before practices, and ALL the time before competition. One meet, we not only prayed for me to do well, but my mom said (as we held hands, sitting in the car, me in a leotard and sweats): “…and may all the girls do their best, today…”

"We pray ALL the girls will do their BEST, today." -- my mom

“…and may ALL the girls do their BEST, today.” — my mom

Huh. Reeeally. We want everyone to do their best? Not just me? (I was 11)

This began my education, specifically in sports, to WISH EVERYONE WELL. That they will have a positive attitude, be safe, and perform their best. (I know, I know, why send anyone else good energy when you need it yourself to win? So keep reading…)

My mom demonstrated for me how to “bless” my opponents, as she openly wished them, “Good luck!” at gymnastics meets. She commented on how cute their hair ribbons and ponytails were, she buzzed around other moms and said nice things like, “Isn’t this exciting!” with a big grin on her face. My mom was absolutely happy, no, tickled, that all the competitors were there, together. Didn’t matter what team they were on. She delighted in the energy and anticipation of the event: the athletes marching out, standing in straight lines, singing the National Anthem, and heading to their first event. The competition was pure excitement for all to experience and watch!

Sports camp at Stanford inspires girls from all over. Sports community is key!

Sports camp at Stanford inspires girls from all over. Sports community is key!

So think *community.* A sports community. You need athletes, coaches, and officials in your sports community. And, consider your opponent…even if your opponent is a jerk or (pardon my french) an ass, this well-wishing is worth doing: So picture her in your mind, your opponent. Okay, now give thanks for this awful opponent. Better still, wish her well! (Smile, nod your head, shake hands.) Because you need her. And her fierce play can only give you the best test of your preparation, skills, and attitude. Choose the high road to be your finest self. Your energy – when you genuinely wish someone luck – will vibrate on a higher frequency than usual because of your positive thoughts, making all doors open for you in terms of performance and, yes, for miracles to happen.

So think about it: You NEED your opponent. NEEEEED. Or probably a better word is to ‘respect’ and ‘value.’ Because, without your opponent, there’s no one to challenge or play against. In addition, there would be no games – and no YOU as an athlete. It’s clear, you, by yourself, does not a sport make.

Gather, look in each others' eyes, and create energy and focus! Need each other!

Gather, look in each others’ eyes, and create energy and focus! Need your teammates!

Simply put, sport is people. Sport is community. Sport is a powerful connection with coaches and athletes who train, prepare, and compete. And sport is life-giving. If you genuinely wish opponents the best, in a flash, you can focus back on you, your breathing, and your performance. You can bring out your own inner “tiger” to go out and attack!

Come on. Say, “Good luck.” Wish your opponent well and mean it. Then, go get her…go kick her ass. That’s great competition!

And the cool part is that well-wishing is pure and good and inspiring to others. It is sport at its most magical high point. It’s you, me, everyone doing something amazing…like human beings…flying.  And that is *wow.*  🙂

reach, sweat, believe,