How an Athlete's Mindset Affects His Soccer Game.

All elite athletes tend to have a similar mindset.  They are driven and focused.  They do not allow anxiety and fear of failure to enter their thoughts.  Were they born with this capacity for ignoring the "what ifs?" 


They have all strived, consciously or unconsciously towards pushing themselves and working with the belief that their biggest competition is themself.  

I believe that the lack of a positive mindset can cripple a talented athlete, so that no matter how incredibly gifted they are, they may not perform when necessary.  With this in mind, I am planning on a series of articles addressing the topics of sports psychology and performance coaching.

Chris Villani, is the founder of Performance Coaching Unleashed in Charlotte, NC.  Chris is an experienced hypnotist who has applied his skills to coach business professionals for a number of years.  He has expanded his practice to work with athletes.   The exercises to create and instill a mindset that allows for optimal performance is the same regardless of whether they will be applied to skills in the boardroom, or the pitch.  Chris was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.  He lives in Charlotte, NC and is also available through skype.

Q and A with Chris Villani About Mindsets

Q: Is changing one's mindset a form of teaching self-hypnosis?  Why or why not?

A: Yes, mindset design is a form of self-hypnosis.


The reason is self-hypnosis is a your self talk.  It is that mind chatter that we have

that tells us who we are and are not. What we can or cannot do, what to believe or not.

Self-hypnosis allows you to trade your old negative thoughts for an upgraded powerful version that pulls you in the direction you want.

  • Overcome fears
  • Break unwanted habit
  • Create a new and compelling future toward your goals

Self-hypnosis is the Athlete's Secret Weapon

It unlocks the door to your imagination and possibility.

"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.

- Albert Einstein


Q. Can anyone be taught to change their mindset?  Why is this an ongoing process?

 A. Changing your mindset is easy and we do it every day.  From the moment we wake up to when we go to bed we are making decisions.

Examples of everyday decisions that we make:

  • What clothes am I going to wear today?  
  • What am I going to eat for dinner tonight?  
  • Do I push myself for this workout or do I just show up and do the bare minimum, etc.

Once you have made a decision of this new habit or goal that you want, take action!

This is what separates an elite athlete from the rest.

They may not know all the details or steps of their outcome, they just "take action" and learn along the way.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

Daily mindset and physical condition is required to enhance the skill or outcome they are going after. 


Michael Phelps said it the best:    "I am a finely-tuned swimming machine.  Programmed to swim, win gold, and repeat.

- Michael Phelps, Olympic Gold Medalist


Q. Why would a top athlete who has always excelled ever question their ability?

A. Many things can make an athlete question their ability to perform at the top of their game.


Identity and beliefs: The gatekeeper of excellence or failure

One of the first area's I look at when working with an athlete is their identity.  We will always remain consistent to the identity that we carry in our mind.


CASE STUDY:  All-American Wrestler

The Encounter: My first session with an All American Wrestler

I once worked with an All-American wrestler who was having trouble in practice and in competition.  When I first met him, he was smart, talented and had a great mindset.  He had all the qualities that you would expect from an unstoppable athlete.

The Challenge: Understanding his World

It seemed that whenver he wrestled against a friend or someone he liked, he would perform poorly.

His old belief:

I asked this wrestler a simple but powerful question:  What is life about?
His response:  Life is about family and friends; you don't hurt them.

He was a person that loved helping others.  Anything that went against or violated that belief would be rejected.  He was unable to perform against his family and friends because he didn't want to risk hurting them.  Even if he wasn't conscious of this, it was holding him back.

Create a New Vision: Update his old beliefs and identify to fit in his current world view as an All American Wrestler

Since his current identity was stopping him from achieving his goals, we created a powerful new identity that he could use.
An identity that would allow him to play "full out" on the mat and in competition.

The Transformation: Create an identity of growth and unstoppable confidence

As we laid out what success would look like for him in the folowing areas as a wrestler:


  • Self-talk
  • Beliefs
  • Leadership
  • Learning
  • Growth

We assigned a powerful "alter ego" that pulled him in the direction of this new goal

That new identity: The Terminator

The Terminator:

  • Relentless
  • Unstoppable
  • Growth and Leadership
  • Help others on the team
  • Focused

The Result:

Growth, leadership and a powerful role model for the team.

"Life is an art, not a destination"

Chris Villani, Performance Strategist


Q. What commonalities have you found between successful athletes across a variety of sports.

A. In my experience of working with elite athletes who are at the top of their game, I always see the following commonalities

1. Discipline

No matter what is going on in their life, they show up and play full out.

Daily discipline in your workout gives you freedom to go to push yourself further physically in each game you play.

Daily discipline in your workout gives you freedom to go to push yourself further physically in each game you play.

Daily discipline in visualization and mindset design.

All winning happens in the mind first so we have to create a compelling future in our mind or we default to the past.


2. Growth Mindset

 They always have some sort of vision or feeling that they are the best at what they do.

They push themselves harder than anyone else would ever expect.

They look at themselves as a leader and role model to their team and coaches.

"If you are going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your own life"

- Tom Brady, Quarterback New England Patriots

3. Creativity

Elite athletes are some of the most relentless and creative individuals out there.

They are unconventional and see things in a way that no one else can.

They ask better questions that create new ways of looking at something and finding solutions

that no one else has.

4. Focused

To be the best, focus and clarity is the key!

When you are clear about what you want, why you want it and have a powerful reason to make it happen.

Watch out, because nothing will stand in your way.

5. Reset

We all have off moments or games in our life.

The best learn to reset and focus themselves back on their outcome.

From Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods they are the best because no matter what is going on

in their life, they reset and come back stronger.

"I don't show up expecting to be great...  the preparation I put in is the mental and physical sacrifice that goes into what I do as a basketball player."

- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors