by / Tuesday, August 30, 2016 / Published in Motivational Coaching

There is a ton of excitement in the air! Students are heading back to school and taking on a new year of growth and opportunity. The 2016 Rio Olympics just wrapped up, where we witnessed a number of huge performances by incredible athletes. Among the standouts was Usain Bolt, who crushed the competition on the way to picking up his 3rd consecutive GOLD medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m events – a feat that has never been accomplished by anyone else. Plus, we saw amazing performances by Simone Biles in Gymnastics, Michael Phelps, Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky in Swimming, and countless other athletes who kept us cheering for Team USA (and other countries) through their awesome athletic achievements.

A Season for Winning

I also had the opportunity to speak to our K-State University Football team leading up to the start of the season. I know from my time with them that this 2016 team is ready to go to battle with any team they face this year. They believe they can win because they have worked harder than ever before, and made all the sacrifices it takes to be a winning team. Deep down, we all understand what it takes to rise above the competition, whether we are racing in an Olympic stadium, studying hard to succeed in our classes, or doing a great job at our careers – day in and day out.

This 2016 team has shown me that they are committed to the program at K-State. Every single athlete has demonstrated that they are focused on being the very best all the time. That they are willing to make improvements every day. That they are willing to continue making the tough sacrifices to build a great football team.

With the players, we talk about Family, because family works hard to help every member find success, no matter how tough the challenge or opponent may be. In a family like the K-State football family, everyone has a job to do. Their assignments on every play must be completed for the betterment of the entire team – that’s just part of how our Wildcat Family finds success each season.

Their first opponent  this season already has articles talking about how they are going to smash mouth the Kansas State Wildcats this Friday night. I think they are underestimating the wrong team, because I know this 2016 Wildcat team is ready to fight tougher, meaner and faster than ever before. They will be ready for anything, and will bring their own brand of smash mouth football all game long, all season long!

I know every athlete on this team has made it their mission this season to go to their first game and unleash the BEAST of a Wildcat within. They are going there to take care of business and prove the naysayers wrong! They’ll do that by beating their first opponent one snap at a time. Everyone is focused on taking care of their assignments and making the big plays together as a FAMILY to win this football game.


Elite athletes like the 2016 K-State Wildcats consistently seek ways to improve their performance. It’s their mindset which influences how they practice and optimizes their response to pressure situations.

Develop Your Winning Mindset

To be a winner, you’ve got to maintain laser-like focus under all circumstances: the competition trying to break your composure; the pain of tough 2-a-day workouts; the hard contact of the sport; the onset of fatigue; or even unfavorable conditions. The best part of this is that a winning mindset can be taught.

Similar to the physical part of the game, adopting a winning mindset will be easier for some athletes, but may take more effort from others. But it’s not a birthright. A winning mindset is something you practice, practice & practice to perfection as you train for success every day. Make the most of every practice by trying to improve every day! PRACTICE IS NOT OVER-RATED!

Beating the Odds

With a winning mindset, you have developed the capacity for willing yourself to win. Instead of caving into the pressure, you’ll rise up to the challenge because you trained for those high pressure moments. Focus your attention on solutions, know your strengths, and use your winning mindset to bring out the fearless competitor within.

Kevin with Bill Snyder, Ron Swiercinsky, and Ron's two sons-in-law

Ron Swiercinsky, a Champion athlete from Belleville, KS, Daniel Garlow, Coach Snyder, Aaron Strait and Kevin Saunders in front.


I wrote about my long-time friend, Ron Swiercinsky, someone who I often competed against as we grew up in Kansas. Ron’s Dad always told him when he competed: “No matter where you finish you can always do better, even if you win!”

K-State Recovers a Fumble

K-State Head Coach Bill Snyder reminds players, “Even if we won a game 69 to 0, there were things we could have done better.” These are words I always appreciated when I was a collegiate athlete, and Coach Snyder knows that the better his players understand this, the more they put into every minute of practice and visualization. That’s how a coach builds a team and gets the best out of every athlete.

Ron's message to KEvin

Kevin Saunders meets with Coach Bill Snyder

Kevin first started working with Coach Snyder & the Wildcat football team in the 1991-1992 season. It’s been a great experience over the years, and it just keeps getting better! GO 2016 Wildcats! Make this a great season because “Slow Feet – Don’t Eat!”

Qualities of a Winning Mindset

Motivation – Highly driven athletes with a BIG vision are driven to be their best by improving in practice day after day. They love to see how far they can push the envelope, especially when told that something isn’t possible.

Initiative – Your winning mindset compels you to be a leader. As a self-starter, you’re not waiting for anyone to give you permission.

Listen to Good Leaders – Then Lead Others!

No Excuses – You accept full responsibility for your performance. There may be times that you don’t know how to do something. But that’s okay, because you know someone has the solution. Your aim is to discover the best strategy available.

Determination – You believe that your BIG vision is possible. Although others may have doubt, they’re not able to deter you from doing everything necessary to achieve your full potential. In a game like football, playing small is not an option.

Strengths-Based Approach – Playing to your strengths is your competitive edge. So your advantage is maximizing your talents to set you apart from the other athletes.

Extra Mile – There’s little competition for athletes that go the extra mile. A winning mindset believes that even when no one is looking, you continue to push yourself toward excellence.

Work Ethic Can Beat Talent and it can make you more talented than ever before.

Tough Minded – You know that improvements happen when you’re being stretched beyond your comfort zone. And you’d rather take calculated risks than play it safe. When the pressure is on, you’re mentally tough enough to rise up to the challenge.

Winning Habits

To have the greatest success, you will have a path filled with struggle. The old saying “NO PAIN – NO GAIN“! is true!

Heading into this season, I want every member of the 2016 K-State Wildcats Football Program to ask themselves:

“What am I willing to sacrifice, give up, suffer for, and fight for… because I want so bad to help our football team here at Kansas State University be successful this 2016 season?”

During 2-a-days and practices as the season goes on, Be a competitor! Someone who is always pushing the envelope to get better! Who stays after practice to catch a few more throws, to run gassers? Run more, catch more, throw more! You set the field for your success in your preparation, so do what it takes to be a winner.

“A competitor shows up to be the best they can be and their hunger for improvement is never satisfied.”

College Football's Here

Go look at all the 16 Wildcat Goals for Success. Look at each one, and if there’s one you need to work on, which would it be? With Coach Snyder’s 16 Wildcat Goals for Success in mind, this 2016 team has the opportunity to believe anything is possible!

This is where the 16 Wildcat Goals for Success Live!

  1. Commitment
  2. Unselfishness
  3. Unity
  4. Improve
  5. Be Tough
  6. Self-Discipline
  7. Great Effort
  8. Enthusiasm
  9. Eliminate Mistakes
  10. Never Give Up
  11. Don’t Accept Losing
  12. No Self Limitations
  13. Expect to Win
  14. Consistency
  15. Leadership
  16. Responsibility

Just remember whether you’re a student athlete, student, on the job or wherever you are in life, you can do great if you put in your very best mentally, physically & spiritually. Anything is possible when you believe in yourself and your abilities, and are willing to do the work it takes to be the very best you can be! Success is within everyone’s reach, but if you don’t pick yourself up and keep striving for it, you’ll never get there.

Here’s to the Winning Wildcats, making this an unforgettable season by doing all the things that make great teams and athletes! And here’s to YOU! But don’t just read these words and move on… Think about the challenges and opportunities in front of you. What can you do to improve yourself, or to improve your chances of the outcome you want? It may require that you leave your comfort zone. You may have to plan, sacrifice and work harder than ever, but it will be worth it!

Keep Going for the GOLD! Never Give Up!
Kevin Saunders, motivational speaker
Kevin Saunders

Kevin Saunders is a World Champion Paralympian, motivational speaker, athlete (with multiple gold medals) and author. Kevin Saunders was the first person with a disability appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness Sports (only 20 people are selected for this nationwide) by the President of the United States. Kevin Saunders was first chosen to be appointed to the prestigious Council by President George H.W. Bush and was the only person reappointed by to this Council by President Bill Clinton and he was reappointed again by President George W. Bush as a constituent expert to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports. Learn more about Kevin’s story and accomplishments.