Case Study 1 'I should beat them'

How to refocus when nerves kick in because you are playing someone you should beat .  

This is a very common problem with all kinds of sports people.  One of my clients described it like this

“I am not very good at playing people who aren’t as good as me: I would rather play people better than me.  As soon as I hear I have to play someone who is my  inferior , my nerves kick in and affect my game. I hate playing lesser players  ” 

And it wasn’t just the competition day that she suffered either.  As she didn’t find out who she was playing until the day, this fear of playing a lower ranked player started days before . This was affecting her general confidence and preparation for the competition and over shadowing her thought process. 


 We very quickly changed the mentality and feelings attached to this situation so she left actually preferring to play lower ranking players : the opposite of how she felt when she started with me. Not only that, she improved her game massively and won more when the anxiety was under control.

1) We had a chat about the situations she had encountered in the past – what had happened and whether there was any common thoughts and behaviour patterns .   From our discussions it became clear that what was at the heart of her problem thinking was shame and the prospect of embarrassment.    She had been over emphasising the idea that losing to a lesser player was shameful and embarrassing.  We located an error in thinking and put this right. .  We had a session disputing which led to the creation of new feelings about that type of players.  The limiting belief which was driving the anxiety and discomfort was disputed and a more robust, confident and positive belief put in it’s place.

2.  The error in thinking was partly due to the over emphasis on feelings at the expense of logic.  I explained this by linking the situation to betting odds.  As a higher ranking player she was the bookies favourite as she was more likely to win – this is based on hard statistical evidence which is how book makers calculate their odds.   This is factual and therefore reliable.   A lower ranking player is less likely to beat a higher ranking player or the other way round is a higher ranking player is more likely to beat a lower ranking player.  If your focus is on winning then the best player to compete against is on the lower ranking player every time.

3.  We created a Performance Statement to bring her back to focusing on winning and distract her from the fear of losing

4.  We looked at different explanations for lower ranking players wining  for example every player however high ranking has off days.   By the same token lower ranking players or teams can have their day.  This is when underdogs beat the champions .    But the important fact is that  players are ranked due to winning on a CONSISTENT basis.  One loss does not make you lesser player – you are still consistently superior.  Sporting excellence is based on performing well consistently.

5.   We did a “what then” exercise .  So often the fearful mind just cuts off at the point before the feared consequence.   By asking so “what then” takes the fear out of the situation by confronting the unpleasant consequence head on.  When you do this they are often not so bad as you first thought.

6.  We developed a routine and a strategy for her to do when she heard the name read out of a lower ranking player.   This was based on our discussions, the agreed performance statement and visualising and having a code name for lesser players which would signal to her mind “this is someone I CAN beat” rather than the “this is someone I can’t lose to”

7.  We wrote in a sequence for playing lower ranking players into her visualisation practices so that the mind could be familiar with the new thought strategy.

Note the shift in thinking was because we were focusing on the logic and winning whilst moving away from the negative emotional side which was having a negative impact.

 The results were outstanding.   After a few sessions she had no problem with the lower ranking players and they became the ones she wanted to play against.    We took the emotion from it and substituted it with the “I can” winning mentality.   She went from strength to strength and is now one of the top players in the country.