Recruiting Column: Interview with Brian Cain, Peak Performance

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He is going to inspire you. He is going to motivate you. Heck, he is probably going to change your life! And, if you commit to his mental conditioning and peak performance principles, you won’t be the athlete looking back on your career saying, “I wish I would’ve known then, what I know now.” For you high school athletes looking for that “edge” up on your opponents this fall, let me introduce you to Brian Cain. Here’s to realizing your fullest potential!

Brian M. Cain, MS, CMAA, is a No. 1 international best-selling author, speaker, coach and expert in the fields of mental conditioning, peak performance, organizational leadership and character education. Last Sunday, I discussed with him the “mental” side of sports. Here is what he had to say.

Q: How important is mental conditioning at the next level?

A: Obviously, you have to have a talent and a skillset that can take you to the next level. But the thing about the next level, whether it’s college or professional, is everyone has physical skills. The higher you go in levels of competition, physical skills mean less and less because everyone has them. So, the mental conditioning at the highest level is the No. 1 most-important factor.

Q: Speak on the advantages a mentally conditioned athlete has over his/her opponent.

A: The biggest advantage they have is the ability to withstand adversity. There are two things that athletes have to anticipate in high level competition. They have to anticipate adrenaline and they have to anticipate adversity. The bigger the game, the more the emotion. And the more emotion leads to that excitement causing a bigger adrenaline rush. Those things that create the adrenaline rush are also the things that can create the adversity. How they handle the adrenaline and the adversity will ultimately dictate how often they perform at their best.

The mentally tough athlete has a skillset to stay in control of themselves, so they can consistently perform at their best and consistently give themselves the best chance for success. A mentally conditioned athlete focuses only on what they can control and not on the things they cannot control. They understand that the fastest path to beat yourself is to focus on what you cannot control.

Q: What qualities do you consistently see out of peak performers?

A: Consistency and confidence. Consistency comes from routine, which in turn creates confidence. Peak performers have an established routine, or process, to consistently be their best through preparation and performance. They also possess great confidence because they understand that confidence is not something you get, it is something you do. They carry themselves with confidence, they speak to themselves with confidence and they are going to focus on what they want to do, not what they are trying to avoid. Mentally tough athletes can dial in confidence because they have practiced their body language, they have conditioned themselves with self-talk and they know exactly where to put their focus. Essentially, they practice the mental, just like they do the physical.

Q: What is an example of an athlete focusing on something they can control?

A: Athletes can only execute if they are in control of themselves and focused on competing one play at a time. Let’s take a wide receiver for example. On the most recent play, that receiver gets called for a flag when he feels he didn’t do anything wrong. Well, is he going to let that official’s questionable call affect him on the next play? Maybe on that next play, he is running his route and he’s a step slow. He comes out of his break, still thinking about that questionable call and a catchable pass goes off his hands. Now he is in quicksand. In addition to still thinking about the questionable call, now he is thinking about the ball that he dropped. His problems are compounding because he can’t let go of what happened in the past. The reality is, athletes that focus too much on the past, or too much on the future, ruin the present.

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Q: What age should athletes start investing in the mental conditioning process?

A: As soon as they reach the first trimester! It’s the parents that need to understand the mental conditioning principles and the principles of peak performance, so they can start implementing those into their own lives. Then, it’s their responsibility to model those principles to their young athletes. Ultimately, kids take on the mindset, the personality and the attitude of their parents. If they see it from their parents, they are going to get it.

If a child has any interest in becoming an athlete, and the parents want to provide their son or daughter with the best opportunities, they need to start educating themselves first. As our children grow and start to mature, we start teaching them the principles that will make them successful, like controlling their emotions or goal-setting. Listen, measurement is motivation! Instead of telling your child to go clean their room, tell them to see if they can clean their room in three minutes or less. Create the measurement that will motivate your child to complete the task. It’s understanding some of these principles, and getting people going as early as possible, that will make them champions in life, both on the field and off.