Developing an Elite Mindset

David Copeland-Smith explains how to attain the proper mindset to become a better player.

Take a look at the physique of any top level athlete and you’ll notice how hard they work to train their bodies and prepare for competition. But training the mind — the vital component to performing at and maintaining the highest levels — is something that just can’t be seen from the outside.

A winning mindset is the common denominator in what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. But many times,  naturally-gifted athletes rely solely on their natural ability. And unfortunately, these athletes will never reach their full potential. 

One of the greatest examples of an athlete with a winning mindset is NBA legend, two-time Olympic gold medalist, author, philanthropist, and father of four girls, the late Kobe Bryant. Around 2003, Bryant was at a low point in his career and life. This is when he adopted his alter-ego, “The Black Mamba.” 

Bryant initially created this persona to separate himself and to better organize his life. The alter-ego led the basketball legend to develop his own philosophy, the “Mamba Mentality.” The Mamba Mentality is not perplexing; it’s simply crafting a mindset that promises to work harder every day to improve at whatever you’re doing. After acquiring this mindset and corresponding persona,  the enhancement in Bryant’s game and life was immediate. Kobe soon trusted that although failure was inevitable, it was also the best way to learn how to grow better.. 

As he experienced more and more success, Bryant soon shared his “Mamba Mentality” with the world, sharing it with anyone and everyone also seeking to reach their fullest potential. Although Bryant was taken too soon, his legacy lives on through all of those that he inspired. 

Versus has partnered with multiple world-class athletes and coaches to give you access to tools that can be used to develop an elite mindset and take your game to the next level. Sign up at today and learn how to create a winning mindset. 

In this exclusive Versus training session, we sat down with soccer training extraordinaire, David Copeland-Smith, to discuss his route to help young soccer players adopt a winning mentality. Copeland-Smith, founder of Beast Mode Soccer, is internationally recognized as a leading figure in individual technical training, having trained some of the world’s top soccer players.


Success Story: Alex Morgan

Copeland-Smith points toward soccer wizard Alex Morgan as a perfect example of an athlete who has mastered the winning mindset, calling her a “relentless pursuer of excellence.”

“We were in Canada in 2015 and the United States won the World Cup. At the party afterward, I was obviously pumped because I had a few players on that team,” he says. “Alex made a bee-line toward me and was like ‘Alright let’s focus on the Olympics,’ which was the next year.”

Alex’s thinking is an example of having a winning mindset. On the heels of a massive success, she was already plotting out her next goal to chase. Those players who fail to plot out their next goals face more challenges, largely because they don’t want to put in that extra effort to always chase their next level of success.


How to Build a Winning Mindset

Rate Yourself Honestly

According to Copeland-Smith, the first step in developing a winning mindset is taking a step back to analyze yourself and your game. It is very common for athletes to be hard on themselves, but there is a fine line between using this trait in a positive way and a negative way. 

By analyzing yourself objectively, you can point out your weaknesses, and use that as motivation to improve them. The other option is to rate yourself, point out your weaknesses, and accept that you can not improve. This is a problem — and it’s the difference between a winning mindset versus having a fixed mindset that accepts the status quo. Ultimately, you’ll learn that this choice is yours. So, how bad do you want to be better?


Trust Your Training

In order to be successful, you must have complete belief in yourself and in your ability. If you have put in the adequate amount of training, you should never have a doubt in your mind about yourself. In other words, if you’ve put in the work, there’s no need for second-guessing or accepting a limited, or even negative, narrative within your own head. 

“When you walk out onto that soccer field, your shoulders are back, you’re confident in who you are as a player, and you’re not going to get into your own way,” says Copeland-Smith. 

Many players are fantastic at practice, but when it comes to a game, they don’t perform at that same level. This result usually stems from a player’s ignorance of their competitors’ skill levels, not knowing their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on them. This should never be the case because it’s a mindset that causes their belief in their own abilities to tank. 

Like stated previously, instead recognize that you have trained for this. Then, trust and believe in yourself. Ultimately, rely on your training and everything you’ve done during preparations to be ready for the moment.  

“We want our players to have that belief in their own ability so that they can take on anyone, at any time,” David says. 


Manage Your Inputs

Filtering what you allow to enter your mind and what you choose to affect you is a huge lesson in developing a winning mindset. You’ll want to train your mind to have the ability to be very picky with whom and with what you’ll listen to and accept. 

You’ll also want to learn how to become your own best cheerleader. When you learn to encourage yourself and pump yourself up, you won’t seek that approval or support from anyone else. 

“If you have a coach who is being negative, it’s on you if you let that negativity creep in. And it’s the same the other way around. You don’t need someone to champion you all the time, because you’re championing yourself,” Copeland-Smith says.


A Parent’s Role

If you’re a parent, there are numerous things you can do to help your child develop a winning mindset. Copeland-Smith encourages parents to record twenty minutes of a game, let their player watch themselves, and then let them give feedback on how they feel like they performed. 

This is powerful because video does not lie. 

“What I’ve found is when players think that they played terribly, it’s because they’ve let one mistake anchor them,” he says.  

They could have played amazing the rest of the game, but it doesn’t matter to them. Yet, that one mistake is keeping them down and essentially holding them back. Often, when a player is watching the film, they will realize that they did not play as bad as they think. 

The next step of this process is integral- give them paper and a pen and have them write down what they think they could have done better. Based on what they wrote, parents should assist their child in gathering some drills to improve those skills, go outside, and work with them. 

“This is teaching kids that anything worth achieving has delayed gratification, and they will carry this with them beyond soccer,” David says.


You Control Your Own Mindset

Having a winning mindset means understanding that anything worth achieving, both on and off the field, takes time and effort. 

A player with this type of mindset refuses to let anyone or anything hold them back from reaching greatness. 

Take a step back to evaluate yourself, identify your weaknesses, strategically plan how you are going to improve them, and get to work.

“The most important part is understanding that you’re in control of your own mindset, so learn how to quiet the noise,” Copeland-Smith concludes.



If you want to go deeper on soccer technique and skills and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to David’s lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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