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Up Your Game: Create A Compelling Story

Editor’s Note: For the fastest game on two feet, it takes more than fast feet to become a good or exceptional lacrosse player. Given the fast paced nature  and how quick a game-time situation can change, it’s important for a player to always have his or her head in the game, and to be mentally prepared to respond to any situation a game may bring. “Up Your Game” is our newest series for lacrosse players who wants to not only gain the mental edge, but play the game with greater concentration, composure and confidence.

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Your Creative Story

Everybody creates a story in their heads about where they have come from, who they are and what they expect will happen in the future. It’s a story we tell ourselves everyday, and very often it has a dramatic impact upon the choices and decisions we make in our daily lives. If the story that you tell yourself is all about ongoing failures and disappointments, and that no matter what you do you will not be successful, then you will probably have little energy or enthusiasm, and will hold back and not give your best effort for fear of being frustrated again.

“It’s not about the performance – it’s about the story behind the performance.” Rasmus Ankersen – The Gold Mine Effect

On the other hand, if your story is about facing various challenges in life and rising above them, then you will have more confidence in yourself and a stronger desire to reach your goals in life.

In his book, The Ultra Mindset, champion endurance athlete Travis Macy talks about the power of the stories that we tell ourselves. In one chapter, entitled “Bad Stories, Good Stories: The Ones You Tell Yourself Make All The Difference” Macy stated that an athlete who keeps telling himself negative stories will only pull himself down with self-doubt and self-criticism.


As a lacrosse player, you must create a story about yourself that is:

  1. Compelling
  2. Powerful
  3. Inspiring

You need to develop a storyline that highlights your personal strengths and strong character, as well as the various challenges you have faced and overcome to become a more successful athlete.

It’s putting the events and experiences with sports in a positive frame of reference. You will see yourself as the hero who rose up and succeeded, and not the victim who was weighed down by whatever circumstances you encountered as an athlete.

You can begin by identifying three meaningful moments in your sports career that have made you a better athlete and person. You will gain the mental edge, and become a more competitive and powerful lacrosse player when you have a good story.

Q&A with Brendan Dawson

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk to Brendan Dawson, the head coach of the men’s lacrosse team at Widener University. Before joining the team in 2012, Dawson served as an assistant coach at Dickerson and then served as the first men’s lacrosse coach at Aurora University.

As a coach, what kind of players are you looking for when it comes to their mental game?

BD: We look for goal-oriented and purposeful young men. What do you want out of your academic experience? What do you want out of your athletic experience? Okay, now get it.

We look for young men who possess mental toughness. Going from high school to college is an adjustment in a lot of ways – but one of the biggest adjustments is the length of the season. You have to love to play the game, and you have to weather the ups and downs of a college lacrosse season.

Personal accountability. We need young men coming here to understand that at the D3 level we can work with them less on their lacrosse “game”, than their high school and club coaches. You have to be personally accountable to do the things required to get better every day…and have enough love for the game that you have fun doing them.

In training and developing college players, how do you and your coaching staff help the players develop their mental skills and get them mentally prepared to play?

BD: We meet with our players a lot and talk about these things both individually and as a team. There are countless things that we work on – reading books on leadership development, mindset, etc.

In your experience as a coach, what aspects of the mental game do some lacrosse players struggle with and/or have problems with?

BD: Having an even-keeled mentality. It’s easy to be into it and excited when things are going great…not as easy when things are going poorly. The latter says the most about the type of person/team you are.

In the hours leading up to a game, is there anything in particular you want your players to focus on or think about as they get prepared to play?

BD: Everyone is different. Some players really need the time to be by themselves visualizing what they’ll do to affect the game/team that day. Some players can be more loose. We do have a “quiet period” in the locker room pre-game to allow everyone to focus on what they need to do that day.

During a game, is there anything in particular that you instruct your players to do to keep their heads in the game?

BD: Make the next play. Pretty standard coach speak – but really has a lot of truth behind it. You will not do your best in the now – if you’re thinking about what you just did.