We’re getting into championship time for winter sports. Pretty soon the play-offs are going to start, a March kind of Madness both for colleges and high schools. And as we enter this critical time, sure as I’m sitting here pecking away at my little keyboard, coaches and athletes all over are going to make a predictable, yet costly mental mistake that will send their “A” game packing.
What’s this big mistake? It’s when you go into the bigger games and, in your mind, you have made them bigger than they are and much too important. You have put the emphasis on the importance of playing well today, that your goals and the outcome of your season depend upon it. Making the big games TOO BIG in your head, will guarantee that you walk out onto that court or field tight as a drum. If you have cranked up your pregame nervousness with all of this nonsense about how well you need to play today, then you can bet your life you’ll play really badly!
Do yourself and your athletes a favor. Keep your focus of concentration away from the outcome, from what’s at stake, away from how “this is a tournament game and we need to win.” Focusing on the importance of the outcome and on how big the game is will get you so nervous that you end up trying TOO HARD. You will go into the performance pressing, trying to make things happen, instead of relaxing and letting the game come to you, to flow.
Remember, the secret to peak performance is staying loose and relaxed pre-performance and through the performance. You can’t stay loose and relaxed if you’ve spent all of this time blowing the game’s importance up in your mind. The rules do NOT change for a tournamnet game. The field or court dimensions aren’t altered. The playing time is still the same. The techniques of the game remain the same. And, YOU need to stay the same!
That is, the bigger the game, the more you want to STAY THE SAME. Keep doing what you’ve been doing all season. Do NOT change things because “NOW IT COUNTS!” That kind of mentality will tighten you up and steal your game from you. Instead, simply “stay within yourself.” Play your own game without trying to do something extraordinary. Trying to do the extraordinary stuff will insure that you perform as a mere shadow of your ability. Relax, have fun and enjoy the challenge and excitement of the post season!