Their backgrounds vary, but their minds meet in the same place.

Whether you’re tackling a job interview or racing a 200-meter sprint down a track, mindset is everything. The right attitude, approach and laser focus can mean the difference between crushing the task at hand or walking away in defeat. In fact, positive thinking can decrease your rate of perceived exertion and enhance endurance performance, according to a Bangor University study.

It’s a concept that everyday athletes across America can relate to after participating in in-person tryouts hosted exclusively at 24 Hour Fitness clubs across the country with hopes of making Team USA and competing at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 or the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The rules: Come with your mind right and participate in six different tests to compete for a chance to advance among contenders considered for four sports: skeleton, rugby, bobsled and track cycling. Those selected then have the opportunity to do further screenings and sport-specific workouts with roughly 100 other U.S. Olympic hopefuls at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and possibly be featured on the USOC production two-hour documentary, “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful,” which airs on NBCSN on August 25 at 9 p.m. (ET). But only eight will be selected to train for a spot on Team USA.

It’s not every day that Team USA Olympic dreams are made within arm’s reach for a non-pro athlete. This kind of intense competition isn’t for the faint of heart. “So many people get lost in the woodwork,” says Phil Mullen, a former college baseball player who tried out at 24 Hour Fitness Downey Super Sport (Club 277). “I work in a regular job now, but still—the athlete in you never really dies, so I figured why not come out and at least earn the opportunity to compete again. I think that you’re going to be surprised with some of the time, some of the distances, some of the heights that come out of this day. Anyone could legitimately have a shot.”

Including Tyler Kolfshoten, a high school football and track athlete who attended the in-club tryouts with his mom, Marie. “It makes me very proud,” she says. “It’s a dream come true even though he’s not there yet. But to watch your son try out for Team USA is every parent’s dream come true.”

We caught up with five other U.S. Olympic hopefuls to ask, “Where’s your head at when the times get tough?” The answers? Well, they may be just the push you need to set some new goals and put your best foot forward—starting with tomorrow’s workout.

“You can always improve. You can always get sharper, stronger, quicker and faster. There are going to be moments where you want to give up. There are going to be moments where you’re going to want to quit. But those are the moments where you’re actually supposed to dig in and go a little bit harder because you’re right there at a point where you’re going to have a breakthrough.” —Joseph Jessie, Los Angeles, California

“People are always telling you ‘Just get to where you need to get to for right now. Just to succeed.’ But my goal has always been, ‘No, I want to push past it. I need to go farther.’ If other people are going to put their best foot forward, then so am I. My goal is always not only to do just as well as the others, but better.”
—Stephanie Grant, Bellflower, California

“If someone tells me I’ve got three tries, that sets the bar. I think ‘You’re going to beat every single opportunity you had, on the first try. The second one, you’re going to nail it. The third one, you’re going to get past that point, and you’re going to give it your all.’ I just remember to keep pushing, and don’t give up. Giving up isn’t an option.” —Gary Overbey, Torrance, California

“The mind really chatters whenever you’re doing anything. You’re driving, you’re talking, you’re always thinking through something else, something’s running through your head. For every single sport, whether you’re doing the fine motor skills of curling to the really gross motor skills of track and field, you have to just focus on what you’re doing. The rest will come.” —Preston Kramer, Tucson, Arizona

“Everyone has personal demons, but it’s important to remember that no matter what spot you’re in—even if it’s rock bottom—you can ascend. You can climb the mountain, get back in the game, and redeem yourself with the right attitude.” —Phil Mullen, Torrance, California

Be sure to tune in to Team USA’s two-hour documentary “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful,” which airs on the NBCSN, August 25, 9 p.m. (ET).

Photo credit: Tom Casey,