Sports Psychology and Fear of Failure in Athletes

For example, one class I teach is, “Everyone is Watching Me! How to Stop Worrying about What Others Think.” I cover the techniques needed to stop worrying about what others think to create a stronger mindset.

One of my mental coaching students, Joe (not his real name) had a unique gift (or so he thought). This type of thinking actually makes athletes perform worse, and then realize what they feared might happen.

How can an athlete be taught to focus on what’s important, rather than mind reading or focusing too much on the fear of failure? I start by asking my students an important question, “Do you compete for yourself *or* do you compete to gain respect or approval of people around you?”

This is a tough question for some athletes to answer. In today’s society, many athletes learn *mind reading* when peer approval and gaining acceptance are primary motivators, especially for young athletes.

However, the bottom line is that if you want to harness a zone focus and perform at your best, you cannot care about what others think about you and/or your performance. In fact, many athletes hinder their potential by focusing too much on avoiding mistakes and not embarrassing themselves. And, whether you’ve been an athlete for 5 years or 35 years, the fear of letting others down can lead to tentative performances! That’s why helping athletes learn how to play without the fear of failure is so important.. He literally thought that he could tell what others were thinking about him. Joe’s hidden agenda was to avoid embarrassment, to not make mistakes, and have others think he was a good athlete.

Ultimately, the fear of failure can cause athletes to play tentatively or defensively and actually hinder their ability to succeed. Patrick Cohn is a master mental game coach who work with professional and amateur athletes, sports parents, and teams of all levels. Many find it difficult to admit that they compete because they yearn for the acceptance of their team, parents, coach or spectators.

Let’s face it, we want the respect from our peers. You must learn to overcome mind reading and fear of failure.

Want to learn simple, proven mental toughness skills that you can apply to competition? Grab my free online mental training newsletter, Sports Insights Magazine – for athletes, coaches, and sports parents:


Dr. One way is with my teleseminars. This state of mind certainly makes playing sports half as much fun for many athletes and causes some to drop out of sports.

Author’s Bio: 

Joe’s performance suffered because he did not allow himself to perform freely without the fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, or fear of making mistakes.

Caring too much about what others think comes from the phenomenon called social approval. He was plagued with thoughts such as, “The coach will yank me from the team if I miss an open shot!” or “My team will be disappointed in my performance.”

While no one wants to feel embarrassed or get benched by the coach, avoiding mistakes and playing safe are huge distractions to athletic performance, at the very least. Since he was overly concerned with what other people thought (coach, teammates, parents, spectators, etc.) about his performance, he often engaged in a process I call mind reading when performing.

While Joe was mind reading, he made assumptions about what others were thinking about him. They think it is better to play it safe than risk embarrassment or disappointment.

You can access this seminar and more than 24 other teleseminars in my online mental training program at peaksports network. Social approval is defined as the need to be confirmed and validated by other people.

I help my students achieve this in many ways. Visit for more information.

Joe is not alone. To gain access to my systematic online mental toughness program visit:

This preoccupation with mind reading what others may be thinking about him caused him to play cautiously and avoid mistakes

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