One of the most common reasons that athletes fall into slumps and/or begin to choke under pressure is that they start to get too serious about their sport and performances AT THE WRONG TIME! The time to try hard and get serious should ONLY be WHEN YOU PRACTICE and NEVER, EVER WHEN YOU STEP INTO THE COMPETITIVE ARENA!
As a matter of fact, the only constructive form that SERIOUS should ever take in relation to your sport and your pursuit of those big dreams is in your dedication and discipline to train. You should only be “serious” in so much that you want to regularly and consistently work your butt off to get where you really want to go. “Serious” should never be part of your approach to competition. i.e. “This really counts now…the coaches are watching…I need to produce….I need to prove myself….I can’t let her beat me….I need to win this…..A college scholarship depends upon how well I do,” etc.
When you get “serious” about the outcome of any game, match or race you inadvertently set yourself up for frustration and failure. A really good example of this is what happens to high school juniors and seniors who hope to get looked at and possibly play for a college coach. As freshmen and sophomores, these athletes rarely pressured themselves to “produce.” They took a much more relaxed approach to their competitions because the outcomes just weren’t “that important.” Because they didn’t focus on outcome, and instead, kept their focus on the performance, one moment at a time, they stayed calm, loose and composed and therefore, performed to their potential.
However, come junior and/or senior years, the times that are said to be critical for college coaches to see you, these very same athletes change everything. Because the outcome of their performances is suddenly “important,” they stop focusing on the process of their performances, or the moment by moment experience of just playing and competing, and instead, they concentrate on all that’s at stake. Many put time pressures on themselves in the process, i.e. “I only have this season to prove myself and if I don’t, there goes my chance of getting a college scholarship.” In this way, they get “serious” about their sport and this seriousness tightens their muscles, distracts them from the task at hand and completely destroys their performances.
If you really and truly want to catch the attention of a college coach, if you really and truly want to increase your chances of getting a college scholarship, then you need to start today to put your serious into your practicing, NOT your competitions. Use your desire to play in college to motivate you to work hard every day. Use it to drive you to do the little extra, sweaty, uncomfortable things. Don’t EVER use your desire to play in college to create a sense of urgency and time pressure on yourself in either practice or competition. Don’t use it to beat yourself up in practice because you’re not performing the way that you think college coaches would want you to. When you do that, the only thing that you will be successful in is turning yourself into an anxious, frustrated, poorly performing mess!
Your goals and dreams should serve one purpose for you. They are meant to be a motivational tool to get you to work harder in practice. If you are using them to threaten yourself or to try to get a higher level of performance out of yourself then you are badly misusing them!
Remember, the “serious” in your sport should be relegated to how hard and how often you work. Your “serious” should drive your work ethic in training and NOTHING ELSE! Bring that same “serious” and “now it really counts” way of thinking to a competition with you and you will end of continuing to choke and slump!