The Mental Skills Tool Belt
By Anthony Lanzillo on Jun 2, 2017

By Mental Prep Coach Anthony Lanzillo

As you work with your players through the summer, you want to talk to them about building their mental game, and being mentally and emotionally ready for the next football season. Tell them to visualize a tool belt that they are wearing every time that they step onto the field for practice or a game. This imaginary belt holds all the basic tools that they will need to be mentally sharp and emotionally strong. It’s the tools that will help them play and perform with focus, poise and confidence, as well as repair or fix any breaks or cracks that may appear; whether its losing their composure, worrying about what they don’t control, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed in the middle of a game.

Ask your players to think about and visualize the main tools in that belt. As they “see” each of these tools, remind them that each tool represents a different mental skill that they will use in every practice and game. And by using these tools, they will play and perform with a greater sense of purpose, the right perspective, poise and perseverance.

Here are four tools that you want on that belt:

First, there is the hammer. The hammer represents the importance of paying attention to what you are doing and staying focused on what you’re doing in the moment. Just like when you are actually using a hammer to pound in a nail, if you don’t pay attention and focus on the task at hand, you will get hurt. So, during any game-time situation, you want to have a “hammer approach” to playing.

Next, you have a utility knife. This knife should remind you to cut out everything that is a distraction and thereby, will only take you away from playing your best game. You want to cut out what’s happening off the field, what the players from the other team or spectators are yelling, a mistake you made five minutes ago or worrying how the game will end. Keep that image of the knife in your mind any time you realize that something is trying to take you mentally and emotionally out of the game.

Third, there is the screwdriver. Think of the screwdriver as a symbol for reminding you to get and keep a firm hold on your emotions and thereby, not loose control of yourself. So, you want to use whatever affirmations, positive self-talk or visualizations that will keep you mentally centered and prevent you from having any drastic fluctuations in your emotions. Remember, just like a loose screw that can make the frame of a bed or couch unstable, you don’t want a loose screw in your emotional framework.

And then you have the pliers. When you think of those pliers, think about how important it is that you keep a tight grip on your personal strengths and how you want to use those strengths to help your team. If you start thinking or worrying about what you can’t do or your limitations, then you will begin to loose a grip on your self-confidence, and probably begin to doubt and question yourself.

Anthony Lanzillo is a regular contributor to the FirstDown PlayBook Community site and also has created a mental preparation tool for athletes called The Mental Tune-Up. It is a great tool and resource for getting your players to make a commitment to becoming mentally stronger and tougher. If you would like more information on this tool, drop Anthony an email at risson1954@gmail. He has designed this process for 30, 60 or 90 days. Check out his website here at