Renowned sports and performance psychologist Dr. Bhrett McCabe has helped dozens of professional athletes to perform at the highest level. And now, McCabe has a new book: Break Free from Suckville, in which he explains how an athlete can avoid getting mired in “suckville,” where they continually fall short of their perceived potential.
On this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, McCabe and Harmon discussed a range of interesting topics stemming from McCabe’s new book, from the best way to prepare for a major to the reason so many talented players fall short of their perceived potential. According to McCabe, there are four important elements required for success as a professional athlete.
“Success to me is four prongs: It’s your skills and your talents,” McCabe said, naming the first two. “We’ll never see a player that has a talent differential again in the game of golf like Tiger created. You’re not going to see it in basketball, where you have a Kevin Garnett or a LeBron James, who comes out and he’s seven-foot tall and plays like a point guard. Those are pretty significant differentials. And so, skills and talent are great, but skills and talent are only so good as to what you can perform under pressure.”
McCabe then referenced the many kids across the country who have technically perfect swings, but fail to thrive under pressure.
“They haven’t allowed themselves to be vulnerable to learn how to play and find out who they are under pressure,” McCabe explained.
The third factor of success? “They’ve gotta be mentally flexible,” says McCabe. “They’ve gotta be able to struggle and go, but it’s not personal. It’s developmental. I can be angry, but I don’t have to be devastated. I can be all those different things.”
The last factor, says McCabe, is luck.
“There are times that things pop for players or go against players that just kick them back down a little bit more,” he said.
McCabe used the example of baseball great Mariano Rivera, who lost two Game 7s with a lead, and credited those experiences with making him better. Rivera is a five-time World Series champion and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.
“God knows you have major champions under your belt,” McCabe said to Harmon. “They didn’t fall there. They didn’t just ‘talent’ themselves there. They learned how to play at that level.”
For more from McCabe, including the advice he gave to Jon Rahm after his U.S. Open win, and why you shouldn’t aspire to stay calm under pressure, check out the full interview below.