Book Review: How Champions Think by Bob Rotella

How Champions Think by Bob Rotella is one of my favorite sports psychology books that I've read. In this book, Rotella covers a wide range of topics including attitude, confidence, motivation, performance, and training. Put together, this book provides all the fundamental lessons needed to learn how to think like a champion. To make this book even better, Rotella and his coauthor, Bob Cullen, do a great job writing organized, coherent, insightful, easy-to-read, and entertaining chapters. Here are some of my favorites lessons and tips I've learned from this book:

To begin this book, Rotella talks a lot about the attitudes and motivations that separate champions from average athletes. To Rotella, the foundation to athletic success is optimism and confidence. It is this optimism and confidence that helps motivate you to reach your biggest dreams. Rotella not only tells you the importance of optimism and confidence, but he also gives you the tools to improve your mindset! For example, Rotella teaches you to believe in your talent. Too often, athletes underestimate their natural talent. They give up on their dreams because they think they don't have the natural talent that other athletes have. Rotella encourages you to look at talent in a different way. He says talent shouldn't just be viewed as physical traits, but mental ones as well. An athlete may not possess great height or speed, but he may possess great character and mental toughness, which can be used to become an extremely skilled and successful athlete. And even if an athlete isn't blessed with extraordinary mental skills, they are still blessed with the gift of free will, which can be used to develop their mental skills. Pretty much every mental skill, from perseverance to confidence, can be trained and improved if you want it bad enough! In other words, attitude, talent, and success are largely choices that any athlete can make. Therefore, every athlete should believe in their talent and their potential!

Like mentioned above, this optimistic attitude is just the foundation. Once you have it, you still have to do all the work needed to fulfill your potential. This is why the rest of the book is all about giving you the inspiration and tools you need to succeed. In these chapters, you'll learn how successful athletes persevere through adversity and stay committed to their long-term goals. They do this by dreaming big, trusting the process, loving what they do, and building positive habits.

But even a strong attitude and work ethic is not enough to succeed. You also need to know how to train smart and perform well in games. This book is filled with dozens of tips for performing under pressure. One of Rotella's main talking points is the importance of trusting your instincts in games. To make this message simple, he often tells his clients to "train their skills in practice, and trust their skills in games." This "train it then trust it" approach is very effective. The more you train your skills in practice, the more you'll be able to trust them in games. And the more you trust them in games, the better you'll perform. 

Rotella makes the point that no matter how many times you've trained your skills in practice, you can still have trouble trusting them in games. This is because pressure can cause you to doubt yourself and take conscious control over your motor skills. To counter this, Rotella teaches you how to develop and focus on a "performance process," which are the things you need to do to execute your best. For example, the performance process for a basketball player who is about to take a free throw might consists of the following:

  1. Step up to the line.
  2. Use positive self-talk.
  3. Clear your mind.
  4. Take a deep breath.
  5. Take three dribbles.
  6. Focus on the rim.
  7. Trust your instincts and let your body shoot the ball the way you've trained it to.

By focusing on this performance process, you can minimize the harmful effects of pressure and perform the best that you're capable of. Rotella encourages athletes to develop their own performance processes that work for them. However, developing a preshot routine or a performance process is not enough. You also have to practice going through it many times until you've developed the mental skills to execute under the most intense pressure.

Another performance tip taught in this book is related to positive self-talk. Rotella says that to improve your confidence in games, you need to feed your subconscious mind only positive thoughts and images. If you are constantly thinking of negative thoughts and images about yourself, your subconscious mind will start to believe in these negative things. And since your subconscious mind controls your skills in games, you want your subconscious mind to be filled with confidence, not fear. This is why it's important for athletes to cherish and relive their positive memories and quickly discard their negative memories. In fact, Rotella advises his clients to have no negative reaction at all after mistakes and immediately move on to the next play. If you follow these tips, you'll greatly improve your confidence in games!

Regarding training smart, Rotella gives some great advice about rest/recovery, deliberate practice, and finding the right coaches. In this part of the book, you'll learn a lesson that may seem counterintuitive at first. Rotella says that athletes should beware of trying to perfect their technique. He says that sometimes it is better to stick with what works. The logic behind this is that while you are constantly trying to change your technique, you may never actually ingrain it fully into your muscle memory. As a result, you'll lose confidence in your skills and will be worse than where you were before. Rotella gives lots of examples of athletes who stuck with their unorthodox techniques and found great success. These athletes didn't care what others thought about them. They simply trusted their methods, kept things simple, and because of this, they played with great confidence!

After teaching lots of insightful and practical lessons, Rotella ends this book by inspiring you once again to chase your dreams and give it all you've got! To help overcome your fear of failure, Rotella tells you to think about the big picture in life. Once you realize that you only have one life, that the journey is more important than the destination, and that the only true failure is not trying, you'll have much more courage to chase your dreams!

 If you're looking to gain motivation and improve your mental game, then I highly recommend this book to you!