“Good luck is a residue of preparation.”

– Jack Youngblood, NFL Hall of Famer


It’s pro day season!  Thousands of college seniors are about to embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity to show pro scouts that they deserve a shot at playing on Sundays.

It can also be one of the most nerve racking moments in your life, so I felt this a great time discuss mental preparation.

Whether it’s game day, pro day, an open tryout, or whatever, proper mental preparation can help you perform your best when it’s

Former NFL defensive end Patrick Kerney warming up before a game. (ICON Sports)


Every player trains physically, but most don’t train mentally, which I find interesting, since our minds control what our bodies do.

Related: How to Gain Confidence in Football

But anyways, for you, my friend, that’s no longer going to be the case.  You’re going to leave reading this knowing how to prepare yourself mentally before your games, tryouts, combines, pro days, etc.

I did some research on the topic, and today I’m sharing with you the major lessons I learned.


Lesson #1: Attitude Really Does Determine Altitude


Sports: 5 Ps for the Big Game (via Psychology Today), was written by Dr. Jim Taylor, a clinical associate professor at the University of Denver, who specializes in sports, business, and parenting psychology.

In the article, Dr. Taylor introduced his “5 P’s” that are designed to help you perform up to your potential when it’s showtime.

Let’s review them real quick.

Related: How to Calm Your Nerves and Relax Before a Game

Perspective. When it comes to big events like championship games and pro days, athletes have a tendency to subconsciously treat the situation like it’s a “do or die” event.

While it may indeed be a lot on the line, make sure you put the event in it’s proper perspective, by reminding yourself that regardless of how things turn out, life will go on.

If you don’t, you might find yourself paralyzed by the fear of failure.

And as Dr. Taylor mentioned, it’s next to impossible to play relaxed, focused, and confident when your mind is consumed with fear.



Process. Don’t focus on the outcome of the event, focus on the “process”.

Let’s say you’re a free safety, it’s late in the fourth quarter, and the offense has marched the ball sixty yards on you guys. Instead of thinking about how important it is that you guys stop them, focus on reading your keys on the next play.

In this example, reading your keys properly is part of the process, that will help lead to the desired result.

If you’re still not getting it, check out Dr. Taylor’s explanation:

…if you’re focusing on the end of the game, what are you not focusing on? Well, the process, obviously…  By focusing on the process rather than the outcome, you have a much better chance of playing your best because you are paying attention to things that will help you play well. And, if you play well, you’re more likely to achieve the results you wanted in the first place.

Make sense?


Present. Focusing on the past is useless, because you can’t change it.  The only exception is if you’re reflecting on a lesson you got from something that happened in the past.

On the other hand, focusing on the future will have you thinking about the outcome, and we just learned in the previous “P” that we don’t want to do that.

Sticking with our example, let’s say the opposing team’s offense is now on your own 30 yard line.

You’re tired, and you dropped a game-saving pick two plays ago.  Here’s what you do…

Forget about it!

Focusing on that is useless, and it’ll only lower your confidence for the next play.

Instead, focus on reading your keys, and playing proper technique during the next play.

That’s what’s going to help you get you the desired result.

Related: Football and Yoga – Why More and More NFL Players Are Turning to Yoga – Part 1

Positive. This one’s simple.  Focus on the positive.  You don’t need an expert to tell you that a positive mental attitude improves your athletic performance, do you?

Sometimes, when I’m in a mental funk, I’ll take two or three minutes, and start mentally listing all the things I’m grateful for.

It always helps my mood.  Give it a shot.

Let’s say you’re at your pro day or a tryout, and you’re in a negative mental state. Choose to think about how blessed you are to have an opportunity to show a pro team what you can do.  Besides, there’s a lot of players that don’t get that opportunity.

I first learned about this technique by listening to a Tony Robbins tape about 10 years ago, and it works!  I’ve been able to switch myself into a positive attitude pretty much at will, by using this technique.


Progress. This “P” is all about keeping in mind that you’re making progress, and consistently getting better.  Your road to progress is going to have bumps along the way, but you need to focus on the fact that you are consistently getting better.

It’s pretty tough to have a bad attitude, if you feel like you’re getting better.

OK, part one took a little longer than I thought, but click the link below for part two.

Mental Preparation for Athletes – Secrets to Gaining a REAL Edge Over the Competition. Part 2

How do you prepare mentally?  What are your thoughts on what was shared today?  Leave a comment!

Michael Jordan, on his mental preparation routine:

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Reference webpages:

Sports: 5 Ps for the Big Game

Mentally Preparing For A Game With Dan Abrahams

Psyching Up For Greatness: Powerful Pre-Event Routines 

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