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Why Did I Take That Penalty? How Do I Not Push Back?

Your defender puts a hand in your face. You feel a flash of anger. You get a quick chill and that tingling feeling in your stomach. You push them down. It feels good. The whistle blows. You're called for a penalty. You yell at the official, pointing at the player on the ground.

You gave in to an impulse. Everyone has impulses or quick, intense urges. They're normal, but everyone has trouble managing impulsivity in some form. An impulse often arises as strong emotion(s) with thoughts attached, like: anger and the want to push back; frustration and the urge to yell; rage and the desire to break your stick, cheap shot, or 'go hunting' for your next hit. All of these behavior-thought combos have a common theme - there's an intense negative feeling and the urge to seek relief by doing something right that second. For example, you will feel less angry after you break your stick; you might feel embarrassed sometime afterward, but not as uncomfortably angry.

The intensity of an impulse changes from moment-to-moment in response to your environment and the state of your headspace. A really intense impulse can make you feel like action right-then-and-there is necessary. However, as an impulse is drawn out and allowed to 'just be,' its intensity and the urge to act softens.

The good news is that no sudden urge to act actually requires or cause you to do anything. Your choice to behave in a certain way is what makes something. Between an event that 'triggers' you and your response, there's a space and this space allows choice. Sometimes the space is very small (a fraction of a second) and occasionally it's larger (a few seconds). With mindfulness practice, that space gets easier to find and use for your benefit.

Learning to quickly check-in with yourself to identify what you're feeling and thinking as it's happening is a trainable mindfulness skill. In growing that ability, you take the first few steps toward identifying an impulse, allowing it to pass, and choose what's actually important to focus on - not just what would feel good right now. In reading this article, you probably had a few impulses to go do something else that was more immediately fun or gratifying. However, you were mindful of that feeling and used the space for choice to invest in your game. Pretty neat you already have a head start on that skill!

When you need guidance on the mental game, Win Your Warm Up is there to help you build mental training into your pregame routine.

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  3. Play focused, feeling ready

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