How To Finish Strong: Going For The Knockout Blow

  • 15 Dec, 2015

Has a coach ever told you, “You need to finish strong?”

Do you feel you fall apart at the end of a game after you held the lead practically the whole game?

Closing out games is a common problem for many teams and athletes… But why?

Athletes that have difficulty closing out games or finishing strong change their mindset mid-competition

How To Finish Strong

Your mind was focused on pushing the pace, playing with a positive aggressive mindset and working your game plan. Your positive aggressive mindset gained you the lead…

Then you changed your mindset somewhere towards the closing of the game… You switched your focus to how the game might finish… the final score! During the closing minutes of the game, you felt more pressure to win and you developed a case of the “what ifs.” “What if I lose,” “What if I fall apart at the end of the game” or “What if I choke like I did the last game?” Your mindset became negative and defensive…You feared what might happen and played trying not to lose.

Teams that go for the knockout blow maintain their same mindset throughout the game. The positive aggressive mindset focuses on “playing-to-win” and being aggressive each play. Athletes who finish out games play as hard in the final few minutes as they did in the first few minutes.

The No. 2 ranked Michigan State University football team maintained a positive aggressive mindset in their victory over interstate rival Central Michigan to stay undefeated in their quest for a National Championship in 2015.

The Spartans finished strong entering the game knowing what matters most is how you finish.

The Spartans were outscored in the second half of each of their first three games but committed to change that mindset against Central Michigan. The Spartans played with a positive aggressive mindset, setting the tone and outscoring the Chippewas 13-3 in the second half for a 30-10 win.

Spartan quarterback Connor Cook emphasized how important it is to finish strong.

“We know what kind of players we have and the caliber of talent we have. We’ve been in situations like this before. We’ve played in big games… We’re all about finishing and that’s the one thing that we hadn’t done well this year so far.”

– COOK

MSU outgained CMU, 116-44, in the fourth quarter and held the Chippewas to 1-of-4 on third downs in final 15 minutes to finish strong and close out the game.

MSU defensive end Shilique Calhoun stated that games don’t always go your way but top teams find a way to close out games.

“You’re always going to face adversity in a game, but it’s just about having faith in your team and your coaches. It’s basically about getting the job done and we did that today.”

– CALHOUN

Maintaining a positive aggressive mindset will help you go for the knockout blow and keep you confident through a game.

Try This Tip For Finishing Strong And Closing Out Games:

Ask yourself each play, “What do I need to do to dictate the action on this play?” Just before the start of the play, use a key phrase that will keep you in a positive mindset, “Finish strong,” “Close out” or “Be aggressive.” If you notice you mind drifting to the “what ifs,” repeat your key phrase to yourself with intensity and feeling.


Pick up Dr. Patrick Cohn’s free sports psychology report titled, “10 Costly Mental Game Mistakes Athletes Make Before Competition“. 

Author @Patrick Cohn

Dr. Patrick Cohn is the owner of Peak Performance Sports and a world-renowned mental training expert who works with athletes of all levels including junior, collegiate, professional, and senior athletes.
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