International Mental Game Coaching AssociationIMGCA official website
Member Login

IMGCA Article - The Mental Game Of Football


The Mental Game Of Football

Tap Your Mental Power To Reach Peak Performance


Bill Cole, MS, MA

I've been the mental game coach to football players, coaches and parents at the high school, college and pro level. I've mentally trained players for the NFL Combine, for media interviews, and for transitioning into college and the pros. I'm the sport psychology advisor to many football players and coaches.

What are some of the top mental issues you would like to improve so you can reach more of your football potential? What are some mental issues holding you back from football greatness? If you're like many of my clients, you have a need for more self-belief, and better mental toughness.

Here are four mental approaches I have found very useful for football players.

  1. Tolerate The Tension. Don't "Just Get It Over With": Do you hang in there to produce high-quality games even though you may be tired and hurting? In my years as an NCAA Division I Head Coach, I saw too many athletes "going through the motions" when fatigue set in, or when they were losing. You need to have pride in yourself to never give less that you are capable of. Competition outcomes are uncertain, and when some players are losing, they give up mentally instead of staying with the process, even though it may be uncomfortable. Commit to the process and vow to never quit until the game is officially over.

A CHAMPION is simply someone who did NOT give up when they wanted to.
Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys

  1. Be Intentional: Many football players think about what they DON'T want to have happen. They have fears, concerns and worries about what MIGHT happen. They have movies in their mind about what they fear might go wrong. They imagine all sorts of disaster scenarios and how they will explain what went wrong. This is the opposite of being intentional. Intentionality is focusing on what you WANT to happen. You hear a player say, "Why do I always make that mistake?", or "Let me tell you how I'm messing up". Both of these statements are negative and produce images in the player's mind of exactly the OPPOSITE of what they want. It's paradoxical, but they are essentially programming themselves for failure. Instead of focusing on what you DON'T want, focus on what you WANT to happen. Your mind make that a reality.

Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired. You’ve always got to make the mind take over and keep going.
George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian

  1. Have A Short Memory For The Bad, And A Long Memory For The Good: In our first session I ask my clients, "Tell me your strengths". They almost always begin by saying, "I have many weaknesses. Here are the main ones". If I don't stop them, they'd keep on going about all that is wrong in their game. Why is this? People are focused on getting rid of their flaws so they can become better. It makes sense. It's logical. But it's also damaging to their confidence. Remember, people don't become confident from what they did poorly. They don't become confident from what they are GOING to do. People become confident from what they have ALREADY done well. That is called confidence from competence. To build your confidence, have a VERY selective memory. Once you've analyzed what went wrong in your game, let it go. Then focus on what you do well. Do that and you'll believe in your abilities more than ever.

The body always fails first, not the mind. The trick is to make the mind work for you, not against you.
Arnold Schwarzeneggar

  1. Get Out Of The Drone Zone, Threat Zone And Panic Zone And Get Into The Challenge Zone: The drone zone shows up when you are bored and unmotivated. Have you ever played well with that mindset? Probably not. You move into the threat zone when you see the game as a problem. You might even begin to choke in this zone. The panic zone causes full-blown chokes and freezing, resulting in a disastrous performance. Here you perceive the situation as deadly if you fail. With pressure like that, who can perform? The challenge zone is where you want to be. You see the game as interesting, fun, spirited and you are curious as to what will happen. Accordingly, you respond very well because you no longer feel pressure. You are in the moment and play to your potential.

Your TALENT determines what you can do. Your MOTIVATION determines how much you are willing to do. Your ATTITUDE determines how well you do it.
Lou Holtz, Notre Dame Coach

Today I will do what others WON'T, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others CAN'T.
Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers

We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.
Jim Rohn

Now you can see how the power of your mind can be a very important weapon in your game. Learn more how your mind works, practice and play with intention, and get in the challenge zone. You'll enjoy the game better, and play more to your potential.

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2017 All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot, visit This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

Article Source:

Return to The Mental Game of Football Articles directory.

Procoach Systems International Association of Coaches Independent Book Publishers Association IMGCA

The International Mental Game Coaching Association
P.O. Box 50372, Palo Alto, California 94303, USA
Phone: 408-705-8877

Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm PST. Closed weekends and holidays.
Private backrooms in the IMGCA membership and certification areas are open 24-7, 365 days a year.

The IMGCA name, design and related marks are trademarks of The International Mental Game Coaching Association.
© 2006- IMGCA. All rights reserved.
Use of this website signifies your agreement to the terms of use and privacy policy.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Policies Notice