One of the most common and performance-disrupting mental traps that athletes fall into is TRYING TOO HARD. The athlete goes into a tryout, big game or important showcase pressuring themselves to do well. This pressure is always driven by an outcome focus. “I need to win!, Prove to the coach that I should make the team or be starting, or show the college coaches who are watching that I can play at this next level,” etc.
Rather than relaxing and letting the game, match or race come to them, they press and try to make something extraordinary happen.
Unfortunately when you try too hard as an athlete, when you go into a competition or performance carrying these kinds of outcome expectations, your nervousness will spike, your muscles will tighten, your concentration will be way off and you will badly under-perform.
When this happens for most athletes, they then panic and turn up the self-directed pressure and urgency even more! “I’ve got to play better! What are you doing?! I have to make up for that! This is my one big chance and I’m blowing it!” This makes the “trying too hard” that much worse, sending performance even further down the toilet bowl.
What to do? Follow the simple rule, THE BIGGER THE GAME, THE MORE THINGS SHOULD STAY THE SAME!
If you desperately want to play well or prove yourself, then you have to relax, keep your focus in the action on what you are doing, moment by moment and let your goals/expectations completely go! In other words, you have to TRY SOFTER, not harder. You should never change your mental approach to your performance just because there’s a lot at stake. Instead you need to keep everything that you do the same! Relax, trust your muscle memory and let the performance flow!