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Four Truths About the Mindset of a Successful Student-Athlete

Four Truths About the Mindset of a Successful Student-Athlete

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The most important part of any athlete's journey? Mindset. Learn the four most important lessons I've uncovered about mindset and becoming a student-athlete at the NCAA or USports level. Click To Tweet

Can you believe it’s 2019!?!?

I was watching my son play this past weekend at the first indoor Atlantic junior tennis tournament and realized it’s been 20 years since I retired from playing professional hockey.

But . . . twenty years. What a journey it’s been! Over that time, I’ve started my first ever business, Evolving Solutions, which is still thriving today as a digital marketing agency, been married for 18 years, have two wonderful children, coached minor hockey at all levels and more recently moved from focusing mainly on my own business to becoming a coach/mentor/advisor for young student-athletes who want to play their sport beyond high school in college, university and/or pro.

Through all of these experiences, I’ve learned just how important mindset is for the success of a student-athlete. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the most important thing. You can have the best game, you can have all the skills, you can win all the tournaments . . . but if you don’t have the right mindset, none of that stuff matters.

In this post, I want to share four essential truths that I’ve learned about mindset over the course of the last almost- three decades of being an athlete, coach, parent, parent to athletes and digital marketer. 

So, here are the four biggest things I’ve learned over the past 20 years about being an athlete and mindset. I’m excited to share them with you now. Let’s do this!

#1: You Were Meant for This

The number one thing is this: If you’re reading this right now, it means you have the drive to make yourself better and you were meant for this journey in your sport as an athlete. There’s a reason you’re here, why you’re doing what you’re doing. There’s a reason you’re working so hard, experimenting, doing the research, and building your game. You have a deep and powerful drive for it—and if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. 

A lot of people and athletes question themselves. They say, “Well, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this, or, “I don’t know if I was meant to do this.” But when you adopt that mindset, it keeps you from committing fully. Full commitment is what’s required. You need to have that mental commitment to going all in—not necessarily with your time, but with your attitude. If you ever question yourself, always remember why you started on this journey in the first place. What is it deep down about making this change that excites you? What are the opportunities that lie in front of you? Always remember: This is something you were meant to do.

#2: Failure Is a Part of the Process

We live in a day where society is very focused on “the right answer.” We’re too focused on the what, and not the how, the process of learning. We’re too focused on perfection rather than good enough, even though good enough is often good enough! 

And when you’re trying to become an elite athlete, this is something that can be really dangerous. The need to be perfect, to avoid failure, comes into conflict with what it actually takes to be successful. Because if you’re worried about perfection all the time, you’re never going to get anything done. The quest for perfection is going to delay you from doing what you need to do to actually grow and develop. 

Here’s the deal.  When you’re an athlete, failing is good! The faster you fail, the better you can learn.

There are no overnight successes, and you might have to fail a lot before you succeed. When you realize that even some of the most successful athletes out there didn’t do it overnight, and often faced tons of rejection, you learn to appreciate the hard work, patience, and persistence needed to make it as a high-level athlete. If you let failures stop you, you’re going to let yourself down.

Some of you reading this may not know who Michael Jordan is, but he is one of, if not the greatest basketball player of all time.  In high school, he was cut from his varsity team.  He did not let this stop him…it fueled him.

Maybe you don’t know who Michael Jordan is, but you have probably heard of a guy called The Rock.

Here is a story about what he calls the seven bucks moment.

See…you shouldn’t be afraid of failure, especially after seeing what Michael Jordan and The Rock did with it. 

There are so many other stories of athletes failing and rising above. 

Remember that!

#3: It’s Never Too Late to Begin

When I was coaching young hockey players, you would be amazed how many times I heard parents speaking about their young hockey players and how they didn’t make the rep team in Atom and this meant their career was over.


Or another one I hear often is my child is 14, so I probably shouldn’t let him or her try a new sport, because they are too far behind and they won’t be able to catch up to the others.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there in any sport—and parents and kids think this is a bad thing. They feel like if they’re too late to the game, then there is no sense in pursuing. But there’s actually a big advantage in being late!

There is an actual phrase used by many coaches and scouts in sports.  It’s “Late-Bloomer” which proves that you are never too late to start a sport!

The podcast below addresses this fear, that it’s too late to get started.  If you ever think it’s too late to begin starting a sport, whether it’s because of your age or because of competition, listen to this podcast now.

David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene: Inside The Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, talks about Carson Wentz who was drafted 2nd overall in the NFL draft and is now a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Wentz was a 5-foot-8, 120-pound high school freshman who played many sports. He was not a starting quarterback until his senior year. He did not distinguish himself as an NFL prospect until late in college at North Dakota State.

#4 You Can’t Do This Alone

Being an athlete can be very lonely. That’s why it’s really important to connect with the right people, build the right relationships that will sustain you. 

Having a strong support system will improve confidence and sports success.  When it comes to training and competition, having the support of family, friends, coaches and teammates may just be an athlete’s secret weapon for improving sports success on game days.

No matter what sport you play, having a supportive coach will always help you get to where you want to go as a student-athlete.  A good coach is your biggest support system. A coach takes care of details, keeps you focused, provides positive feedback, understands what you are going through and is completely invested in your personal success.

Along with having a supportive coach and not necessarily the coach who knows the most, but a coach who supports the process, it is also important to find quality training partners.

An example of this is when I decided I really wanted to go for hockey and my best friend at the time also wanted to make a go for it.  Because we had a similar goal to make it to the next level, we decided to train together.  We would shoot pucks together, go on the ice at 5:15 AM some school mornings to practice together, just the two of us.  We would go to the gym together 3 times a week.  We biked to the gym.  Everything was geared towards getting better and pushing ourselves.  

When I look back, that was a powerful relationship that helped me get closer to my goals.

Family.  In order to make this happen, it’s important for you to share your goals and plans with your family and then ask your family if they would help you get there. Those closest to you are your biggest fans, but they may not know that you want or need their encouragement.


I know some of the tactics I mentioned above won’t guarantee you will be a student-athlete after you or your child graduates from high school, but I do know from experience that this is a great place to start!

And when you combine them over time, it will help you compete at your highest level, but more importantly will allow you to enjoy the journey.

You just have to be willing to perform all of the steps on a daily basis… no matter how silly it may appear.

More importantly, the lessons I mentioned above will drive you to new heights, no matter what.


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