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This is one of my favorite times of the year. In Montana, it’s high school basketball tournament time. I still have vivid memories of tournaments from when I was in high school. I remember the excitement at school, and the smell of the bus. I remember how excited my family was and that they all came to watch the tournament. I remember having fun with my teammates in the hotel and the smell of popcorn when walking into the gym. I remember being in the locker room before the game, and oh boy -- the nerves -- I remember the nerves!

Did you know that nervousness is actually a sign that a person is about to do something they care deeply about?

This is a picture of me just before the State Championship game my senior year. I was so nervous… This is what I would like to tell that 17 year old basketball player. Be nervous, it is exactly the way it is supposed to be.

Life Coach Shannon Jones before the State Championship Game

Have you ever taken a beach ball to the pool with you and played the game where you tried to keep the ball under the water? It doesn’t work does it? No matter how hard you try to keep that ball under water it pops back up. Sometimes it even pops back up with a vengeance and smacks you in the face.

When we try to resist being nervous we invite our conscious brain to take control and that isn’t good! HERE IS WHY:

Did you know the subconscious part of your brain controls your fine motor skills? It is the part of your brain that takes control if you were to meet a bear in the woods.

This is the part of the brain you want to be in control when you play sports. The place where you “just don’t think” and “just play basketball.”

The conscious part of your brain wants to keep control of everything because of fear. It’s the part of your brain that tells you not to even go into the woods because a bear might live there.

This the part of your brain that gets you to practice everyday, and keeps you late at practice so you can shoot extra free throws.

But the only part of your conscious brain you want on game day, is the part that gets you on the bus.

Here is what happens to so many athletes at tournament time, they have thoughts like,

“oh no it’s the tournament, what if we lose in the first round”

“what if we don’t make it to state”

“what if I miss this shot”

“we lost to this team last year in this round of the tournaments, what if we do it again?”

“What if someone gets hurt?”

The result is an athlete and a team who plays tight and strained.

In short, the conscious part of the brain takes over the athlete. They become the “athlete who thinks too much.”


Thoughts about outcomes and results come from the conscious brain.

Notice all of the negative thoughts above? They are ALL ABOUT THE OUTCOME.

Train your brain to think thoughts about the process. These thoughts will access the subconscious brain and look more like this.

“We will take one game at a time.”

“We trust our coaches have prepared us for this.”

“We have worked hard to get here.”

“We focus on executing on offense and on defense.”

“We will let our coach worry about the score.”

“We love to compete, so we will figure it out.”

“Win or lose we are ALL IN!”

“We can do hard things.”

Notice how those thoughts focus on the process not the outcome? Those thoughts make you feel light and motivated vs tight and strained. These are the kinds of thoughts that will access the subconscious and help you play amazing basketball!!

In summary

1. Allow nervousness to be a part of your process. It is supposed to be there.

2. Focus on the process and not the outcome. This will engage the subconscious brain which will allow you to play to your full potential.