Sports Psychology: What BYU needs to do to be ready for Boise State

My whole life I have been involved in sports. I have experienced heart breaking losses and the euphoria of winning the big games.  I am now in my senior year at BYU and am in my final season of eligibility to compete on the track team. It is a somewhat surreal feeling, but the things I have learned from playing a sport for such a great university have been life changing. One of the biggest lessons I have learned while at BYU is the power our mind has and what we are capable of doing and becoming when we have trained our mind properly.

The Brigham Young Cougars - not the ones who run on the track with me, but the ones who play on the football field - are in a very tough situation right from a sports psychology standpoint. Coming off of a tough loss like they just did and attempting to turn around just five days later to go on the road and face a ranked opponent is no easy task. To let BYU fans know what the sports psychologists teach the athletes here at BYU, I want to share a few of the things that I have learned, and that hopefully the players and coaches will be applying tonight.

Potential + Training – Interference = High Performance
This is the first equation Dr. Craig Manning, the BYU sports psychologist, gives to all of the athletes he works with.  For almost all athletes at the D-I level, there is a tremendous amount of potential. Our coaches then help us work hard and train to maximize that potential.  The problem is there is so much interference out there that keeps us from performing at our highest level. Our job is to eliminate that interference so we do compete at our highest possible level.


Live in the Present
Dr. Manning tells us this over and over and over again. “Live in the present,” he will say. “Don’t focus on the future, that causes anxiety. Don’t focus on the past, that causes regret, guilt, or complacency. Focus on the moment. What you are doing now.” This is one of the ways to eliminate interference.

What Dr. Manning teaches is especially applicable tonight for the Cougars. If they focus on the eventual outcome of the game or how good Boise State is and how hard it will be to stay with them for 60 minutes, then they have already lost. That will cause anxiety, and they won’t be able to perform each play to the best of their abilities. If they remember how bad last week was, they will have an especially difficult time maximizing their potential and performing at a high level because their focus will be on their mistakes.

They need to live in the present.

What are three things you did well and one thing you can work on? 
Dr. Manning has asked me this so many times I can’t even remember the number. After every workout and race he asks this question. He asks the athletes this so they can focus on continued improvement. If we are consistently focusing on what we are doing wrong, we will not be able to improve. That is why it is also important to state everything in the positive. Instead of saying things like, “We fumbled too much,” or “We had too many false starts,” you say, “We will do a better job of holding onto the football,” or “We will follow the snap count.”

According to Dr. Manning, the mind can only focus on two to three things at a time. If the Cougars try to overload themselves with too many things to improve on, they will be working against themselves. If we were to choose three things the Cougars did well last week, we might say they played solid defense, they never gave up, and they fought back after being down by 17. One thing they can work on is the snap count.

I know this sounds silly and really simple but it’s amazing how much doing these exercises help when you are in a pressure packed situation to perform.

Goals should be quantifiable, not qualifiable
When making goals for the team, you want to take the one thing you said you can work on and turn it from a qualifiable goal into a quantifiable goal. So, one of the things BYU wants to work on is following the snap count. By making the goal quantifiable, you can analyze your performance and see your progression or digression. A good goal for the team would be to have only three false starts in the game, a third of what they had in the last game. This is a stretch, but it isn’t too much of one.

You want your goals to stretch you, not stress you
When making goals for the upcoming games, you don’t want to look too far in advance. You don’t want to say, “We scored 21 points against Utah and 30 against Washington State, so let‘s shoot for 60 against Boise State.” While 60 points would be good, it is probably too much of a stretch, which will cause anxiety. Go for 35-40 points against Boise State. That would be a great goal, it is a little better than last time and will stretch the team.

Like I said earlier, these things seem so simple. But why don’t we all do them? They aren’t only applicable to athletics, but to all things in life. Hopefully BYU will follow these principles that Dr. Manning has taught them tonight.

If you are interested in more of Dr. Manning’s teachings or sayings, you can read his book, The Fearless Mind. You can also follow him on Twitter, @DrCraigManning or his business account of @fearlessmind_GH.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


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