We’re Moving!

Hi Everyone!

Thanks for visiting TheMentalAthlete blog! I’m in the process of transitioning to an updated website and will post the link as soon as it goes live.

In the meantime, if you are interested in working together, want more information on Sport Psychology, or simply want to connect, please feel free to email me at Jessedmichel@yahoo.com, or call me directly at 818.632.4017.

Thanks and Happy Holidays!




A Little About Leadership From Pete Carroll: Lessons from the Coach of the Super Bowl XLVIII Champions

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since February, you’re well aware that the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII was not pretty. The Seattle Seahawks steamrolled the Denver Peytons Broncos 43-8, leading to a host of useless debates about Peyton Manning’s legacy, if teams should build around a stout defense or conventional pocket passer, and whether or not Bruno Mars is the most electric musician to ever perform on the world’s biggest stage (hint: yes).
One topic that you may have heard little about is whether or not Pete Carroll’s coaching (see: leadership) style is effective. Did you know that in an ESPN.com poll from last year asking 320 NFL players “Which head coach would you most like to play for?”, Carroll took the vote in a landslide?! Twenty-three percent of players said they wanted to be led by Seattle’s commander in chief, with Mike Tomlin coming in second with 14% of the vote. In comparison, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, came in 5th place with a paltry 7% of the vote. Yes, the same Bill Belichick with 3 Super Bowl wins. Keep in mind, Carroll was the runaway winner even before his team took New York City by storm and flew back to the home of the 12th man with the Lombardi Trophy.

Carrol after the Big Game

Carroll after the Big Game

How can this be, you ask? There are more than a few reasons why Carroll has been so successful during his second run as an NFL coach. The following quotes were taken directly from his interviews with NFL Network and ESPN within 30 minutes of the most important night of his professional life. I’ll do my best to put each quote into context, and explain how his unique leadership philosophy can be adapted by coaches and leaders to improve their effectiveness. Coach can teach us all a few things about leadership, developing a team, and how the #WinForever philosophy took this team to the mountaintop just four short years after his arrival in the Emerald City.

Show Them How Much You Care

“We count on a different relationship with our players. We try to take care of the whole person, love these guys up, see who they can become, and help them get there. In helping them every way we can, we ask them to do everything to the hilt…it’s not about the draft picks, it’s about the players. You find that everyone elevates and you don’t have to worry about the game.”

I love this quote for a number of reasons besides just the obvious “they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” rhetoric. As leaders, it’s not news to learn that your athletes will be more focused, motivated, and inspired if they know you are genuinely invested in their well-being and happiness. Notice the language that Carroll uses here, words like “whole person”, “love”, “they can become”, and help them”. He’s genuinely invested in their life, family, and personal potential because he knows that doing so will inspire his players to work harder in every single aspect of their game, which ultimately helps the entire team get better. How much better could your squads perform during training if every athlete increased his or her productivity by just five percent? The bigger question is how much time are you willing to invest in “The Whole Person” to reap the rewards of that five percent? Another thing to think about…cohesion is usually positively correlated with team performance, right? So, if you can get your athletes to perform better and improve morale just by demonstrating that they are more than a person with a uniform, does that make it worth the time?

Know Who You Are

We develop our language and philosophy- we are commonly consistent. We have the language and we already know what we need and want. We show them how much we respect them, and they do it willingly. Believe in the process and keep consistent language, so when we get here, it is normal.”

One thing we can deduce from the way Carroll’s players talk about their leader is that he is an extremely effective communicator. Part of the reason his leadership style is so effective is because he is an expert at keeping things consistent and transparent. His players know his coaching philosophy, have bought into the language he uses to talk about the game and his team, and appreciate consistency in his message. How consistent are you in your message? Does your team have a language all your own or someway to separate you from every other team in your league? More importantly, have you taken the time to discuss your leadership philosophy with the athletes on your team? If they don’t know how you want to lead them, how are they supposed to know how to follow?

Make Training Purposeful

You have to create a vision for the kid, talk the vision, and coach them with that thought in mind. We have Compete Wednesday, Turnover Thursday, and No Repeat Friday. It’s the same thing we’ve don’t for 13 years. Believe in the process….so when we get [to the Super Bowl], it is normal”

Ask anyone who knows him, and they’ll tell you that Carroll is an innovator. He is constantly evolving, looking for the next gadget- physical or psychological- to get his team better every day. His coaching philosophy, “WinForever”, is based on the concept that his players will get better every single day. In theory, that sound great, but the real genius is HOW he makes that happen. One of the strategies he has to make that happen are to give each practice a purpose- something small and defined that his players can focus on each day. Imagine ONLY focusing on generating turnovers, every Thursday, for 6 straight months. How much better and aware, of generating turnovers are his players than the rest of the league?

A brief look at the game film from Sunday should provide a clear answer. The Seahawks generated FOUR turnovers, while the only Bronco turnovers occurred after each player had gone to sleep, tossing and turning after getting wrangled for three straight hours. Attend a Seahawks practice on a Thursday, and the “One Thing” is turnovers. What’s your “One Thing” at the practice, at the gym, and at film sessions? Becoming an expert in one aspect of a performance can have a long-lasting impact on the entire performance. Challenge your athletes = to come up with their “One Thing” and notice how quickly their performances become better and more consistent.

For more information about how Carroll has redefined what it means to develop a team, put the person’s self-worth and respect ahead of all else, and become the most sought after NFL leader of men, check out the links below. As you’ll notice, the first article was written in August, 8 months before the Seahawks were crowned champions. If his leadership style works for NFL players, surely we can learn some valuable lessons about how to motivate, inspire, and work better with our athletes and teams.




How Can We Be More Successful?

Success vs Failure5 Patterns of Successful Performers

In between leaving West Virginia and moving to Hawaii, I was asked to give a talk to a group of students from the Los Angeles chapter of the National Society for Leadership and Success. More specifically, the chapter President requested that I “talk for a bit about what it takes to be successful”. I proceeded to ask her if she wanted me to give a 2 week workshop on “Success”, since that’s how long it would take me just to get through the first chapter of “How To: A FastTrack to the Island of Success”.  After a quick scowl (she didn’t appreciate my humor), I was encouraged to be creative and use my experiences and education to teach the NSLS members about “whatever I thought was important”.

The irony of course, is that there is no bullet train to Successville. Have you ever tried to walk blindfolded across a zipline while balancing 50 porcelain plates on your head? Tough right? Well, true success is even harder than that.  Success is one of those things that is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it.  At least you think you do…

There is no .pdf file or blueprint to speed up our path to success.

You could always Google the word “success” and start there, but let’s be honest, that’s too easy? Truth is, we all define success a little differently, which makes it that much more meaningful when you get there.  I once heard a quote that went something like this: “Nothing in life that’s worth it comes easy”. With respect to success, this is especially true. I believe success is a combination of hard work, networking, being in the right place at the right time, and a bit of luck. Fortunately, I also believe we make our own luck, something I will write about in a future post. In the meantime, back to the original post…

After a few days of going back and forth between a several different topics, I found myself becoming extremely frustrated. Trying to narrow down a few things that could help these students on their journey to success proved to be more challenging than I imagined. I wanted them to leave our talk feeling inspired, motivated, and confident, yet have a clear and realistic understanding that success is impossible to define, extremely complex, yet within their grasp.

In a strange twist of fate, the moment I let the answer come to me, I found what I was looking for (**Another good topic for a future post!).

All of a sudden, it blinded me like a rising sun coming over the horizon: HELLO JESSE! You’re an EXPERT on knowing how OTHER PEOPLE BECOME EXPERTS!!

I study performance excellence- plain and simple. With my training and experience, I have become fluent in the language of success, learned what separates achievers from non-achievers, and incorporated the lessons and behaviors from successful people in my own life so I can be a better sport psychology consultant with my clients.

After this profound realization, I knew just how to make their time worthwhile: I would put together a list of the most common strategies and behaviors that successful people exhibit on a day-to-day basis.

I creatively called this talk: “The Five Patterns of Successful People”. It is based on my work with successful athletes and coaches, some previous research and pleasure reading about success across all walks of life (e.g., sport, business, politics, etc.), and general observations of how successful people separate themselves from the pack.

This list is by no means exhaustive. On the contrary, it is simply five of the hundreds, if not thousands, of the strategies that “successful” people live by. I encourage you to think about what each of these looks like in your life, and think about ways to apply them to your personal and professional lives.

The Five Patterns of Successful People

1) Be comfortable being uncomfortable.

2) Make your own luck.

3) Have a network of support (family/friends) and professional mentors to be successful.

4) Its not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it.

5) Know your WHY and the 3Ps

Passionate: The only way to reach your goals is to do what others are                              NOT WILLING to do; Go above any beyond everyone else.

Purposeful: Find meaning in what you do.

Persistent:  Don’t quit, ever. If and when you do quit, each moment you spend on the sideline is a moment that could have been spent working towards your                          goals.

What do each of these mean to you? How would you apply these to your life to be more successful? Do you agree or disagree with these ideas?

As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback and am curious to hear your thoughts about success!



Mental Food for Thought

1) How do you define success? How do you measure success? How do you let others’ definition of success affect your performance?

2) Who is the most “successful” person you know? What did they do to become successful?  What can you learn from them that will help you get where you want to go?

Mental Conditioning Exercises

Not counting wins and losses, how do you define success?

Pick one of the five “Patterns of Success” and describe a recent situation where you could have used the strategy on or off the field to more positively impact the situation.

How would things have turned out differently?

How can you apply the strategy to an upcoming situation and how will that contribute to your success?


Mental Food for Thought

1) Are you properly defining success for your athletes? Do you purposely define personal success differently for different players on your team? If not, what message does that send and how may that be setting them up for failure?

2) How do you measure your staff’s success? Do you practice what you preach (e.g., show up early and stay late, put in time away from the field or court, challenge yourself to get better on a daily basis)?

Mental Conditioning Exercises

Not counting wins and losses, how do you define success?

Pick one of the five “Patterns of Success” and describe a recent situation where you could have used the strategy on or off the field to more positively impact the situation.

How would things have turned out differently?

How can you apply the strategy to an upcoming situation and how will that contribute to your success?

When Reality Becomes Stranger Than Fiction

Hello again!

First of all, I’d like to apologize for taking a 2 month vacation between posts. You could have sailed around the world in less time than it took me to write a follow-up to my initial foray into the blogosphere. I want to thank you all for following, liking, and commenting on the post about Adam Scott’s victory.  Your comments and questions were thoughtful, inspiring, and challenging.  Considering the positive feedback and praise I received from the WordPress community and readership, you definitely deserve more than one post in two months!

As a Mental Skills Coach who tries to practice what I preach, I’m not one for excuses, so I won’t give you any. However, I will tell you what has been going on the past two months to help explain the drought between posts, and provide some incentive to keep reading in the future.

If you read the “About Jesse” section, you know I was finishing up my Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology at West Virginia University. Well, I’m proud to say that in the last 6 weeks I successfully defended my dissertation, interviewed for a job, got said job, went to way too many graduation parties, and moved to Hawaii. As you can imagine, these events have taken up most of my time since Adam’s first Major. (Side note, Adam didn’t make the cut at last weekend’s US Open, so make sure to see how he bounces back and applies those mental skills at next month’s British Open)

Why should you care about all this? Great question!

  1. Completing my degree means I’ll (probably) have more time to write about what I love: helping athlete and coaches improve performance.
  2. More time and more posts means I can have a greater online presence and interact more with you!
  3. I was hired to be a Performance Enhancement Specialist in the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program (Read About CSF2 Here).
  4. I will be working in Hawaii with US Soldiers and other military personnel. My job is to help them become better performers, increase resiliency, and develop mental toughness.  In essence, teach them how to apply the same mental skills I teach athletes and coaches in their performances.
  5. This is a phenomenal job in a dream location that will allow me to pursue my passion with arguably the most mentally tough performers on the planet: United States Soldiers.
  6. These experiences will make me a better Sport Psychology Professional and challenge me to provide some of the best Sport and Performance psychology content on the web!
  7. In addition to working with the US Military, I will continue to work with athletes and coaches across the country and make sure to connect sport psychology, military psychology, and performance psychology concepts in a way that is easy to understand, applicable, and beneficial for my readers.

As you can see, there’s a lot in store and I’m excited you will be a part of it!

I start work this week and hope to have a more predictable stream of posts, articles, links, and content once I get a feel for life on the Island.

I promise to keep writing quality posts if you promise to continue to contribute as much as you did a couple of months ago.

For now, read below and check out some comments from a recent talk I gave to a group of students from the Los Angeles chapter of the National Society for Leadership and Success!

What Can Adam Scott Teach Us About Mental Toughness?

Great Scott: Adam Wins His First Green Jacket!

Adam Scott wants you to know something: The only difference between failure and success is a subtle shift in perspective.  The 2013 Masters Champion was a career 0-48 in Majors before Sunday, but has been in contention for a handful championship trophies (or Jackets) during his brief and already successful career. In fact, just last July, on the hallowed grounds of Royal Lytham and St. Annes, he was ever so close to winning his first, but lost the chance to call himself the Open Champion after an epic collapse down the stretch. After going into Sunday with a four shot lead, he bogeyed 15, 16, 17, and 18. In the meantime, The Big Easy, Ernie Els, sauntered his way down the back nine and birdied the 18th to finish with a final round 68, one shot better than Scott and just enough to win his fourth Major.

Adam dejected after finishing second at the 2012 British Open

Adam dejected after finishing second at the 2012 British Open

So that’s it, Adam Scott had a chance a glory, but he choked it away, right? Four shots on four holes, and just like that, the Claret Jug slipped through his fingers faster than a ball of ice on a rainy day. We can imagine ‘normal’ tour pros losing a four-shot lead with four holes to go, but Adam Scott? He’s arguably one of the 5 best players in the world! Some writers called it the worst collapse in Major Championship history. Other pundits thought it would be his last chance at Major glory; his prodigious talents washed away with the tides of the English coastline; just another wasted opportunity.

You know who didn’t think that? Adam. You know what Adam thought? Here, let him tell you:

Responding To His 2012 British Open Defeat

“I’ve got to take something out of it. I’m playing great.”

“It’s not what I wanted out of today but it’s not all bad. I’m still young and hope to get more chances.”

“I learned a long time ago to look for positives.”

“I’m very disappointed. I played so beautifully for most of the week.”

“Next time, I’m sure there will be a next time, I’ll do a better job.”

“I still feel like I won that Open- I just played so well and felt like I controlled the golf tournament. “

Just for good measure, go ahead and read those quotes one more time. What do you see? What do you notice? How did Adam respond to enormous adversity on golf’s greatest stage?  In the moments after the biggest disappointment in his professional life, he was able to acknowledge the failure, but find the silver lining in the success. He owned up to his mistakes, but made sure to reflect on the positives from the week. Notice how he started each sentence by acknowledging the negative, but finishing with a positive thought.

For Adam, losing the Open Championship didn’t mean he was a bad golfer. It didn’t mean he’s a hack, a failure, or not able to win when it matters. It didn’t relegate him to the depths of Choke City, where mentally weak athletes can disappear for years after a meltdown like this. On the contrary, Adam chose to look at the bright side, surely a harder decision than any shot he made all day. He proved to himself that he could contend in a Major. He was proud of what he accomplished. Sure, it was a mystifying four-hole collapse; but more importantly, he looked at it as a 68-hole masterpiece. Think of it this way: What if those four holes had been scattered over the first three days?  He’s not even in contention and I’m not writing this article. See what I mean? Perspective holds the key to Mental Toughness, perspective.

But I digress… For most of us, it’s tough to imagine the rollercoaster of emotions an experience like that would conjure up. Try for a moment to put yourself in Adam’s size 13 Footjoy’s. What would your reaction be after losing a four shot lead with four holes to go in a Major? Could you have been that sure of yourself, that confident in your ability, that certain that your time would come once again?

Fast-forward nine months to Sunday afternoon at Augusta. Scott enters the final round in contention, again, at a Major.  This time, he’s the one who has the chance to come from behind. Sure enough, he battles his way up the leaderboard and makes an unbelievable putt on the 18th hole to take a one shot lead! In the process, Scott lets out a “Come on Aussie, Come on Aussie” loud enough for Greg Norman to hear clear across the Atlantic in his seaside Australian villa.

Again, try to put yourself in his shoes. You just took a one shot lead at The Masters. It’s time to take what’s rightfully yours and get redemption from the agonizing defeat of last summer. What a weight off your shoulders…but then you realize, it’s not over. As you walk your way over to the official’s tent to sign your scorecard, the final group is about a Rugby length field away down the 18th fairway. Before you can even pull out a pen, El Pato, Angel Cabrera, never one to back away from a challenge, hits a beautiful approach on 18 and proceeds to make his two-foot putt to force a playoff.  Remember the rollercoaster of emotions? Tap into that experience, cause here we go again.

Adam celebrating after winning the 2013 Masters

Adam celebrating after winning the 2013 Masters

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or on the moon, I don’t need to tell you what happens next. Scott and Cabrera both par the first playoff hole and hit eerily similar approaches on the second. Cabrera, just outside Scott’s ball, burns the right outside edge of the hole on his birdie attempt, leaving the door open for Scott to quiet all the naysayers and “experts” who said he could never come back from Lytham. With one putt to win the Masters, let’s see what Adam has to say about the opportunity:

Responding To His 2013 Masters Win

“My mind was clear. I said ‘this was the putt that winners make and I’m just going to go on instinct’. Those are the moments where you find out how much you really want it. ‘Don’t even think about speed, just swing the putter’”.

“That was my chance, that was the moment I had to seize.

“I somehow managed to stay in each shot when I needed to.”

“On 18 I told myself to go with instinct. Show everyone how much you want it, this is the one.”

“I could hardly see the putt on 10 because of the darkness, and I asked Steve to help me out, and I trusted him, he was my eyes on that putt.”

As darkness fell on Augusta, Scott asked his caddy, Steve Williams, to be his eyes on a putt TO WIN THE MASTERS. Obviously, it was the perfect speed, perfect line, and perfect ending to a fantastic tournament.
Do you know what Mental Conditioning Coaches call that? Mental Toughness.

Over a 45 minute span, from the regulation putt on 18 to take a one shot lead, to the playoff putt on 10 to win his first Major and the coveted Green Jacket, Scott demonstrated what I hope all athletes and coaches have the chance to experience at some point in their lifetime. The total euphoria of knowing that all the hours in the gym, on the practice field, and working on The Mental Game are worth it! Whether you’re an amateur, high school, college, or professional athlete, there is something to be learned from Scott’s triumph.  The poise, energy management, focus, emotional control, and confidence he displayed are what separate great performers from the rest of us. While it might have looked like an eight foot putt on your television screen, it was over 20 years of hard work that helped guide that ball to the center of the cup.

Here’s one last quote, to hammer home how Adam was able to accomplish this monumental feat: “I’m just so proud of myself right now.”

So are we Adam, so are we.



          Mental Food for Thought

1. What is your automatic response to adversity?

2. What thoughts run through your mind in the moments after success? After failure?

          Mental Conditioning Exercises

If you feel that you can improve in this area of the Mental Game, think of a special word/phrase or image that you can think of when things don’t go your way. Try to make it a thought or image that elicits a positive emotion or helps revive your confidence.

Use this when adversity hits, and with enough practice, it will be your ‘automatic response’ to adversity.


          Mental Food for Thought

1. How do you respond when your athletes make a mistake? Do you react the same way with some players and differently with others?

If so, why? How does that approach work for each athlete?

2. What do you do when you make a mistake? How do you know if you’re coaching poorly? How do you react to adversity?

          Mental Conditioning Exercises

Talk with your coaches about evaluating each other after every practice or competition. If you’re asking your players to improve their skills, is there room for you to do the same?

Think about what failure looks like from a coach’s perspective.  What is your automatic response to adversity and how does that impact how your athletes respond when they face adversity?