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How to Win

Why the Colts Were Wrong

The Indianapolis Colts were the talk around the gym yesterday. People debated whether Indy coach Jim Caldwell did the right thing by taking his key players out of Sunday’s game, even though it meant risking the team’s chance at an undefeated season.

Indianapolis wound up losing to the New York Jets, creating a great sports discussion. Critics argue that no team should ever pass up a chance for immortality. The Colts respond by saying that it’s more important to keep their players safe and rested for a shot at the Super Bowl.

While both viewpoints have their merit, the TotalGamePlan blog must offer an opinion grounded in psychological principles. And the more I think about it, the more I think the Colts made a mistake. And the reason is simple:

The Colts changed their mental approach. In every previous game this season, they approached the game with just one thought in mind: Win the game. But against the Jets, they started thinking about safety and caution.

It’s a radical and fundamental departure from an approach that had not only brought great success, but was also psychologically sound. Prepare for one game at a time. Focus on one game at a time. Play one game at a time. Win one game at a time.

Remember, there are so many things in sports that you can’t control. But there are a certain precious few things that you can control, and your mental approach is one of them.

All year long, the Colts used that approach well. Survive and advance. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just win, baby.

Now, psychologically speaking, things are a mess. The controversy could be a bigger distraction than the unbeaten record ever was. And there is huge pressure now. The Colts have to win the Super Bowl now, or else they’ll have nothing to show for their 14-0 start — except what could have been.


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