“Champions don’t see pressure as a problem; they see it as a privilege!”
We want to ensure that all our preparation will finally pay off on game day. We train, practice and invest so much time into getting our players and team ready for the big day. But this is all for nothing, if our players don’t have the mental strength, confidents, ability and mind set to deliver when it matters.
Two things are clear:
1. The player and/or team that can deal with the pressure the best will win.
2. it’s the one who has the ability to deliver when it matters, who will win.
If I bring up Michael Jordon’s name, the one defining trait of his champion persona and Gold Medal Mindset is his ability to deliver under pressure, when it mattered! That’s what makes a champion.
As a young athlete, I knew this struggle all too well. I was almost unbeatable in the practice room, but on tournament day, I struggled to be even half the athlete I was on the practice mat. The pressure to succeed created such a fear of failure, that my self-doubt often became a self-fulfilling prophecy, paralyzing me. It was clear to me, that my losses were not because of my ability, preparation or talents, nor was my opponent the one beating me. The real battle on game day was with me, my greatest enemy was my inner-self and my greatest victory was winning over self-doubt in the moment it mattered most. I now see this same battle unfold day in and day out with my athletes. It’s purely a mental struggle and can be quite frustrating, especially when their potential is so obvious. When it matters most and the pressure to perform is upon them, that potential gets hidden under a mound of emotional baggage.
So let’s talk about where that pressure comes from, what self-doubt really is and what mental exercises can be put into place to fix this issue.
From my experience, most pressure comes from within. Personal pressure to succeed and the fears that come with it, creates a pressure cooker that very few escape from without getting burned. Having said that, it’s the outside world which conditions and programs us to feel this way - It’s the unforgiving, no mercy, funnel vision of leadership to win and the crushing expectations to “do whatever it takes and failure is not an option” mindset. These types of goals can be overwhelming for anybody, but especially young athletes that have not yet developed.
That leads me to my first coaches’ tip for this article:
1. Be flexible.
2. Set milestone.
By letting off the steam, and allowing our athletes to focus on smaller goals, it helps them build confidents, releasing that pressure and removing the emotional baggage that’s holding them back. This freedom keeps them on track and due to the fact they’ve tasted some success, and reached the next milestone along the way, they begin to build personal momentum and mental strength. To do this though, we must be flexible. And we must focus on my third coaches’ tip, which is:
3. Control the controllable.
My success triangle is built upon three pillars. Attitude, Behavior and Technique. My goal setting process for athletes, is defining behavior, not numbers. Why? Because it’s the only thing we can control! It’s that simple. It’s the same philosophy I use when setting team goals and overall expectation. Our team goal this year is not to win every game, that would be, well, stupid. I can’t control that. Our goal is, “to compete passionately for 60 minutes, every game”! That my friends, we can control. I also don’t expect perfection, but I do expect a perfect effort. This simple mindset of “controlling the controllable” automatically lets steam out of the pressure cooker and helps our boys reduce their fear of failure. It also gets them focused on what truly matters and creates the right attitude, environment and culture. Hope those few tips help get you started, if you have any more questions, feel free to write me, or come by our sports psychology and mental training workshops on Friday nights.
Next is dissecting self-doubt, and then dealing with it. Self-doubt is a thinking error. The funny thing about self-doubt and fear, are they are both illusions. Both of these feelings are based on events that have never occurred. Self-doubt usually comes from the outside world telling you,” that you are less then who you are, and you believed it”. Remember boys, “you are a 10”! The first tip for athletes that experience self-doubt on game day is this:
1. It’s not a truth, only a perception.
Self-doubt usually comes from measuring ourselves against the opponent and/or hearing some inner-child voice that says you can’t do it. Use it if you can, prove em wrong. And just because you may think negatively about yourself in that moment, or perhaps someone else thinks in that moment that you are less, doesn’t make it true! It’s only a perception, not a truth! This feeling of self-doubt generates the emotion, “fear”. What is the opposite of fear? Faith! It’s why so many top athletes have superstitions and rituals before games (you should too). It’s like the sugar pill method,(Doctors give patience a sugar pill, telling them that its medicine that will cure their illness, and it works, based on faith, because they believe it). It comes down to the power of believing, one must have faith. Giving you courage! Courage doesn’t mean the fear goes away, but it does give you the strength to face and overcome that fear. So let’s give you some tips to get started. It starts with developing the right thinking “habits.”
1. Control your thoughts.
Self-mastery is the ability to control thought, speech and dead. If you can master and control these three things, you can control the universe. It’s a lot easier said than done. So let’s start simple, and begin by simply “going positive”. Self-doubt is a negative thought, which we have to replace with a positive empowering thought. So starting today, whenever you are faced with self-doubt in any form, follow these three easy steps.
1. Identify the negative voice.
2. Question and mock that thought.
3. Replace it with an empowering thought.
Another term for this is “self-talk”, a tool used by most champion athletes. Last but not least, is that dealing with “pressure „is very similar on how we deal with “pain”. We must accept it.
1. Embrace and accept.
When’s the last time you turned off the TV or PC, sat down in a room alone and were just a human being. Allowing whatever inner pain you had to just hit you like a freight train and then cried like a little bitch? If not recently, I would highly recommend it. In today’s world, we have so many outlets that enable us to get short term gratification or emotional fulfillment whenever we start to feel the slightest bit crappy. Addiction is out of control. My question was never why all the addiction, it’s, why all the pain? We don’t like dealing with ourselves and many of us will do whatever it takes to feel better and avoid reality. The amount of “likes” you get today on Facebook, will not fix the pain of tomorrow. NOW LISTEN, I have some great news. We have a built in, self-fixing system. We have little “anti-bodies” if you will - that when we really feel sad or hurt and we let it just hit us, all these little guys will swarm together and fix it, making us feel better. But for that to happen, we have to embrace and accept the pain, and by doing so, we can let it go. Step 1, is admitting, identifying and understanding our feelings. This takes brutal honesty and courage.
For anyone struggling with self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy, I want you to know something. You wouldn’t have those feelings, if you didn’t have the potential within. People that battle with depression, are often those that are not in line with their inner-compass. Their thoughts and actions are not on track or in-line with their potential. Therefore they feel like horrible people in some way. Funnily enough, the fact that they even have those feelings is just the proof that in reality, within them, is greatness.
Hope this Helps.