His passing got me thinking about Trevor’s most recognized concept, Neutral Thinking. Neutral Thinking, according to Trevor Moawad, is “a high-performance strategy that emphasizes judgment-free thinking, especially in crises and pressure situations.” Put simply, it means accepting that when something good or bad happens, it happens. You accept the event or situation for what it is and then decide to move forward.
As coaches, players, and parents, now is the time of year when Trevor’s Neutral Thinking is more important than ever to review. Our soccer seasons are escalating in consequences with high-stakes games, college showcases, and playoffs on the horizon. Along with these tangibles come heightened emotions. And this is where Trevor’s Neutral Thinking allows coaches, athletes, and teams to push aside their emotional biases and feelings to clearly focus on their performance cues.
‘Neutral thinking’ operates on the simple premise that success is a product of three things:
1. Our behaviors
2. Our mentality
3. Our language
Stress, coupled with a competitive environment, creates intense feelings that have the capability of clouding your ability to operate in the most effective way.
“The more we pay attention to our feelings, the more we move away from our capabilities and our training.”
When you practice separating your emotions from your behavior, mentality, and language, it will allow you to make better decisions—ultimately leading you and your teams to a higher level of performance.
Just think about this for a minute. If a player makes a tactical error during the run of play and realizes what the immediate consequences of that are and responds accordingly, wouldn’t it be great if he could just let the mistake go? Accepting the error and continuing to play – that is Neutral Thinking!
Acceptance of the past is integral to Neutral Thinking! Sometimes in high-pressure moments, overly negative or overly positive thinking can prevent you from truly understanding the moment and, more importantly, learning or progressing from it into the next.
A Few Key ‘Neutral Thinking’ Strategies:
1. STOP the NEGATIVITY: Negativity affects us way more than positivity, somewhere between 4 – 7 times as much. It’s vital for you to cut off the negative inner dialogue.
2. GO into NEUTRAL: When a mistake happens, accept the it for what it is, and then move on without judgment or emotion.
3. RELEASE your MUSCLE MEMORY: Now, with your mind clear of confusing and contradicting emotions, your mind and body are free to perform from your trained behaviors that you’ve spent a lifetime building, creating, and executing.
4. TALK: For Trevor, language is the carrier to success, especially when speaking out loud. It is 10x more impactful than simply talking to ourselves internally. Self-talk is important but is not as important when compared to how we communicate with our teammates or others. Sometimes, you can’t control your inner voice, but you have total control of what you choose to say out loud.
5. KNOW: Simply put, you must know the necessary behaviors required to achieve high performance. These are your action steps, your performance cues, or your process goals. As Trevor often states, “behavior precedes our success.”
This is a quick overview of Neutral Thinking. Like all things in our competitive world, Neutral Thinking is much easier said than done. And it requires practice. Practice makes progress!
Thank you, Trevor Moawad, and rest in peace, brother!
Director of Coach & Player Education for Trace
Certified Mental Performance Coach