A Mental Training Trick For Athletes

Asia Mape
In Learn
By Asia Mape | March 6, 2017

A Mental Training Trick For Athletes

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

If you’ve seen the hit show ‘Friday Night Lights,’ you recognize the phrase and the emotion it evokes. Focus. Teamwork. Preparation. Passion.

Every Friday night before the Dillon Panthers take the field, they recite the mantra: Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

For the Panthers, the saying is about coming together as a team and playing with a shared vision and focus.

In sports psychology, these are called Cue Words. Teams can use them as a call to action like the Panthers, or teams can use them more specifically in key and crucial situations.

For example, on my daughter’s basketball team, if it was a close game that was starting to slip away, our team captain would yell out “STE” Strong To The End. This would trigger a reminder for her team to dig in and finish strong when they were starting to lose ground.

Cue words are also extremely effective tools for individuals. If your child has difficulty staying focused, suffers from performance anxiety or is struggling with one certain skill or aspect of their game, then cue words can be a great tool.


Professional golfer Rory McIlroy used the cue word “process” to keep himself focused on the process rather than the outcome during the British Open in 2014. This worked well for him as he went on to be crowned champion that weekend.

Repeating the words or phrases consistently in your mind or under your breath often during competition, can really be a game changer for an athlete.

  • Re-focus when they’re distracted or tired. “Focus on every play” or FOEP.
  • Build Confidence by repeating positive words of encouragement. “RMFP”  “Reach My Full Potential.”
  • Ease anxiety “Relax and breath.”
  • Remind an athlete to use a particular skill or tendency. “Quick feet, strong arms, big heart.”

Cue Words should be printed out or written and placed in a variety of places, including a locker, equipment bag, even on a bedroom wall to be a constant reminder for a young athlete.

Here are some more tips from sports psychologist Dr. Chris Stankovich on how to use cue words:

  1. Make the word your own and be sure it is meaningful to you. No word is too silly to use, so long as it has meaning to you.
  2. Try not to make the cue word(s) too long or confusing, as the idea is to think of the word quickly when in games so that you can immediately put your focus back on success
  3. Be sure to put your cue word in places where you will see it – remember, a cue word is meaningless if you cannot remember it during competition!
  4. Try to use your cue word before each play, if possible. For example, if you play football, try to quickly think of your cue word moments before each snap so that you can turn your attention back to a positive thought.

More examples of possible cue words:

  • Dig deep
  • Get after it
  • You Got This
  • Stay in the game
  • Dominate
  • Calm, confident, in control

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