The unthinkable has happened AGAIN! The NY Mets squandered away a 3 and 1/2 game lead and managed to NOT make the playoffs, AGAIN! Losing streaks are an interesting phenomenon, but I’m sure the Mets wouldn’t describe their experience right now as “interesting.”
Where do slumps come from and how do they work?
Losing a few games, choking away a big competition, stealing defeat from the closing jaws of victory do not, by themselves cause a performance slump. Losing is an integral part of competing and everybody does it. The bad games and losses only serve to form the “seeds” of a slump. What determines whether these seeds get planted and take root is how the athlete or team responds to their bad performances.
This is another one of those cases where the problem isn’t the problem, but how you REACT to the problem is the problem. The issue here is how do you explain those losses to yourself and your teammates. How you react to them will determine where your focus of concentration goes and this is the KEY element.
If you tell yourself that you’re in a slump, if you allow your focus to “time travel” from the past, remembering how you have been losing, to the future, worrying that “IT” might happen again, then you are setting up the dynamics to make a slump or losing streak take hold and blossom.
The way that it works is as follows: Peak performance can only happen when your focus is in the NOW of the performance. You have to be totally and completely absorbed with what you are doing in the moment, play by play. However, if you have been struggling lately performance-wise, then you are more vulnerable to allowing your focus to drift back to the past, remembering those bad performances or instances of choking. When you do this, you end up generating physical and mental tension inside. This tension will make it that much more difficult to stay loose and concentrate on the right stuff in this upcoming performance. This situation then gets worsened by a natural worry that the slump or losing streak will continue. When this happens your focus now drifts to the future. This kind of future focus further generates anxiety and physical tension, distracting you even more from the task at hand.
Mentally going back and forth from the past to the future is what keeps the slump or losing steak “alive and well.” This is because the tension the athlete or team feels, combined with the faulty focus (worrying about the outcome of this game) insure that another bad performance will happen. The best way to break out of a slump is to discipline yourself to stay in the moment and NOT string the past and future into the NOW. To do this you have to be exquisitely aware of your focus going into and during the game. The problem with the Mets is that they were continually brought back to the PAST, reminded of what happened last year, and pushed forward into the future, “what if it happens again?” by their fans, the sports media and talk radio. There is no question that their slump now has wings and the spirit of it will be kept alive and well for next year and many years to come.
Every performance is a new beginning if you control your focus of concentration. You can only get hung up in slumps if you ignore this fact and allow yourself to collect some serious frequent flyer mileage for “time traveling.” Your slump antidote: STAY IN THE NOW!