MPM Coaches Certification

How to Coach your Athletes to Use Fear as Fuel

by Brian Cain, MPM

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of disappointment. 

There is a long list of outcomes that athletes fear. 

As a coach, it’s your job to teach your athletes how to manage their fear. It starts with them knowing that fear grows out of feelings of what might happen in the future. 


Rule #1 about Fear: Fear feeds on feelings.

If left unchecked, fear can kidnap the athlete’s mind and body.

High emotional states like fear will activate the sympathetic nervous system which will set into action increased heart rate, muscle tension and shortness of breath.

Our bodies are not meant to sustain these states. Most of all, athletes will not be able to perform well under these sympathetic nervous system conditions.

All their training goes out the window when fear has taken over and they’ve lost control of themselves… Unless you coach them on how to use fear as fuel.

So, how do you coach your athletes to turn fear into fuel? How do you keep them from setting off the panic button and initiating their sympathetic nervous system? 

With facts. 

Fear grows when emotions are allowed to engage in storytelling. I might lose today. And then the coach might bench me. And then I won’t grow and develop. And then my dreams won’t be realized. And then, and then, and then. This is storytelling.

Facts combat this.

Here are three ways MPM Certified Coaches are helping their athletes turn fear into fuel for optimal performance:


(1) Instead of allowing your athlete to get involved in telling stories about the future, have them list facts from the present moment.

Example: Today’s event is about to start. I have trained for this. I am ready. I know how and when to my routines, process and breathe to help me lock into the present moment, to relax my body, and keep my heart rate normalized. I know how to use my mindset, self-talk and body language as a weapon in my sport. And I know how to make the necessary mechanical adjustments when needed. I’ve got answers for whatever this competition brings my way.


(2) Remind your athletes of the very normal biology they are combating.

Our brains don’t know the difference between a fictional horror story vs. the real life impending doom from a lion that’s hunting us or a train that’s coming straight at us. 

Our brains think the stories are real and will therefore engage the body to act. Quickly. And without the measured and accurate movements your sport demands.  This is why it’s so important for us to play mental games with ourselves, albeit the right ones.

Pre-competition, you can acknowledge the reality that they are headed to an important event for themselves and their team, but that death is not waiting for them if their desired outcome is not achieved.

Death is not waiting for them. There is no lion or train.

Naming three things they can see and three things they can hear will help regulate their bodies and bring them into the present moment as what you hear and what you see and feel are always in the present, like a hitter in baseball feeling the dirt under his feet as he gets into the box, a golfer hearing the grass she pulls from the turf to check the wind and an MMA fighter feeling the chainlink of the fence as they run around the cage before the fight begins.


(3) Make sure your athletes have a pre-competition routine. 

If they have a song list they can listen to, a set of warm up movements they perform, an accountability partner that they check in with, then their brains won’t have time for the negative storytelling.

Recognizing fear and knowing how to stop it and turn it into fuel before the sympathetic nervous system is engaged, is a skillset.

My Mental Performance Mastery (MPM) Certification has drills that develop these skills needed for elite mental performance so the athletes who you coach can win more often and close the gap from where they are to where they want to be in performance.  


COACHES: What you should do now…

Want to learn more coaching strategies to master the mental side of performance? Join my COACHES INSIDERS LIST, save $200 and I’ll keep you updated on when I open my next Mental Performance Mastery Certification class.

Inside the course, I’ll show you how to:

  • Get your athletes to perform their best when it means the most by using a SYSTEM to create an elite mindset.
  • Compete at a higher level, more consistently—while managing distractions and adversity—by establishing the right routines.
  • Create the championship culture you need to develop elite athletic leaders and cultivate a clear vision that keeps everyone motivated and juiced up.

Drop your info below to learn the systems and secrets I use to help the top coaches in the world compete at an elite level—year after year to help them turn fear in to fuel and to help the get the results they’ve been looking for.