Mental Edge: Comebacks, meltdowns, and the mental game

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Mental Edge: Comebacks, meltdowns, and the mental game

High School Sports

Mental Edge: Comebacks, meltdowns, and the mental game


What leads to a comeback? And what causes a performance meltdown?

Comebacks and meltdowns are on opposite sides of the spectrum but the basis of both is quite similar. Comebacks and meltdowns are affected by mindset, more particularly whether you are focused in the past, present or future.

Whether or not you have a successful comeback depends upon your mental game. If you are focused on past mistakes during a competition, your confidence will be wounded and the tendency will be to give up to some degree. Focusing on the potential loss or potential disaster will also take away from your performance because your “head” is no longer in the game. The only way to mount an effective comeback is to be fully immersed in what you need to do in the present moment. A successful comeback does not necessarily mean a win, it can be bouncing back in a competition, regaining your composure and performing at a high level.

Likewise, melting down or closing out a game after having a lead comes down to focus.

A performance meltdown occurs when you think you have the game in the bag or when you believe you have already won before the final whistle has blown. That type of focus is based in the future. The only way to successfully close out a competition is to focus in the moment or keep making the necessary plays right in front of you. Your focus is the main factor that affects your performance and the eventual result of a competition.

This is an amazing  example that really hits home when it comes to the impact of the mental game…

Winless UCLA faced No. 19 Washington State Cougars on Sept. 21. At one point, UCLA was trailing by 32 points in the second half, but bounced back, scoring 50 points in the second half to pull off the upset victory, 67-63.

How was it possible to make one of the best comebacks in collegiate football history?


UCLA was focused on making plays … not on its mistakes earlier in the game, not on a potential devastating loss and not on continuing their winless streak.

UCLA sophomore wide receiver Chase Cota commented on how offensive assistant coach Jerry Neuheisel helped keep the team focused on making plays in the moment.

COTA: “[Neuheisel] was getting us excited when we were down, saying ‘this is what we are going to do, we are going to drive, [our defense is] going to get a stop.’ He tells us how the game is going to go out, so we were just confident in that and we were just having fun.”

UCLA was focused on what they were going to do (the present) and not what has happened (the past) or what might happen (the future).Ultimately, how you perform will be highly affected by your mindset: Are you going to focused on what you want to do or are you going to focus on what you fear might happen?


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