If you’re a Final Four fan, you’re already familiar with the “Cinder-fella” story of this so-called “commuter college” basketball team beating fomer NCAA champs and #1 ranked UConn to make the semi-finals of this year’s college basketball tournament to be held in Indianapolis on Saturday night.

Their unlikely win captured everyone’s attention because people love David-beats-Goliath stories of underdogs toppling giants against all odds.

What has POP’d out of this story for me though is not just the sheer joy of these “overlooked” players and their rabid fans going to the Big Dance . . . it’s Coach Jim Larranaga’s ability to say the right thing at the right time.

A clip on ESPN showed him prepping his players for this weekend’s matchup. He told them, “I don’t want to hear anything that’s not positive coming out of your mouth.”

This is a coach who practices what he preaches. When UConn came back in the final seconds to tie the game and force it into overtime, George Mason’s players could have lost hope. Their coach could have yelled at them for blowing their lead and chastised them for losing concentration in the final minute.

Instead, Larranaga gathered them in a huddle and said, “Fellas,I want to tell you one thing. There’s no place I’d rather be right now than here with you guys playing this game. You lapsed on defense for five seconds, so now we have to beat Connecticut for another five minutes.”

The George Mason players promptly went out and did just that.

Why? Because their coach focussed their attention on their DESIRED behavior vs. their DREADED behavior.

My ConZentrate book points out that the mind is literal and does what it’s told. Instead of registering conceptual, contradictory words such as “Stop” or “Don’t,” it cherry-picks and zooms in on words that conjure up images. It can’t register the opposite of an idea; it imprints and produces what it “hears.”

What does this mean for you? When golfers tell themselves, “Don’t hit it in the lake,” guess what the mind hears? Right, “Hit it in the lake.” When tennis players tell themselves to “Stop hitting off your back foot,” guess what they’re focusing on? When a coach tells his or her players, “Don’t choke,” what mental image is planted in their mind?

Yet, before every Super Bowl, you see NFL coaches claiming solemnly, “We can’t afford any turnovers. I’ve told the team, ‘No fumbles.'” Yikes.

As we move into spring and many of us head for the links, courts, diamond, pool, or playing field, keep this in mind. Tell yourself and your players what you WANT to do vs. what you DON’T want to do. Use words that focus your mind on your DESIRED vs. DREADED performance and you and your team are much more likely to play your best.

Like to learn how to set up the peak performance state of flow called ConZONEtration? Visit www.SamHorn.com to buy an autographed copy of ConZentrate. Billie Jean King said it’s, “full of practical advice on how to gain the mental edge so you can fulfill your potential and perform your best.”