The Oreo Cookie Technique: Achieve Emotional Balance in Competition

Picture of By Jesse Engelbrecht

By Jesse Engelbrecht

Roger Federer playing a backhand volley looking calm and focussed and in control of his emotions
A graphic with a blue neon frame with text in the middle discussing the key takeaway messages in the blog giving the high-level overview.

I first learned about the Oreo cookie technique to achieve emotional balance from legendary squash coach Paul Assaiante, the winningest coach in US college sports history. The concept is simple yet powerful and can help athletes control their emotions and excel in high-pressure situations.


As an athlete, you know the value of managing your emotions when striving to perform at your best. Think of elite athletes like Roger Federer, Simone Biles, Kobe Bryant, and Lionel Messi. They stay cool under pressure, with their minds focused and their bodies primed for action. Playing with heightened emotions rarely leads to victories, let alone championships.

When you sense negative emotions such as anger and frustration building up during a match, imagine an Oreo cookie. Picture the two biscuits representing your thoughts and actions, and the sweet cream filling in between as the vital space connecting them.

The cream filling signifies moments of calm and clarity amid the chaos of competition. By taking deep breaths, practicing mindfulness, repeating your mantra, using triggers, and adhering to your game plan, you can maintain control over your emotions and improve your performance.

This is a skill that can be learnt and developed with practice and time. I talk about this in another blog on How To Train To Think More Positively.


When emotions run high, the cream filling can become dangerously thin. Irrational thinking takes over, leading to impulsive and damaging actions. In these situations, athletes need their mental clarity the most.

For example, imagine squandering an easy opportunity to take the lead in a match. Naturally, you feel upset and angry. If you let these emotions dictate your actions, you might lose focus, play with poor body language, and berate yourself internally and externally. In short, you’re playing with little to no cream between your thoughts and actions.

External factors such as bad referee calls, adverse weather conditions, hostile crowds, unplayable surfaces, or cheating opponents can also trigger emotional reactions.

In emotionally charged situations, your goal is to find the space between your thoughts and actions. The Oreo cookie can help.

Sometimes, a thin layer of cream is all you need to harmonize your thoughts and actions. Other times, a thicker layer may be necessary to provide ample space for processing emotions, regaining focus, and staying composed under pressure.

Remember, as an Oreo cookie, achieving the perfect balance between your thoughts and actions relies on maintaining that essential cream filling. By doing so, you can harness your emotions, stay in control, and consistently perform at your best. Can you begin to fill your mental bucket and value the importance of consistent habits such as these?

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. And in that space, we have the power to choose.”

Victor Frankl
A cartoon image of a basketball player in focus. There is an Oreo cookie at the side depicting thoughts and actions and the cream being poured in are the good habits around the space between the two biscuits


Whenever you’re ready, here are 4 more ways you can consume SportMind content to help you train your mind:

  1. Check out the SportMind podcast. And this is my FAVOURITE episode to date
  2. Get your coach in your pocket by downloading the SportMind App on Apple or Android
  3. Ever wanted the tools to Unlock Flow? I have a workshop just for this
  4. Become a SportMind member and gain full access to mental training. Learn more here

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Jesse Engelbrecht

SportMind Founder,
High Performance Coach,
& Squash Professional

A professional and dedicated coach full of enthusiasm and passion for helping and teaching.

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