Want an absolutely great way to sabotage your performance? A surefire way to help you choke under pressure and steal defeat from the closing jaws of victory? If so, then try THINKING while you perform!
One of the biggest performance mistakes athletes at every level make is to think too much right before and during their performances. The thinking can have to do with technique and mechanics. You can be coaching yourself to do the right things with your timing and execution. The thinking can have to do with game strategy or your position/role on the team and what you need to be doing in relation to that. The thinking can be related to an over-focus on your opponents and their size, skill or reputation. The thinking can have to do with your mistakes and/or worries about making them. Or the thinking can be focused on what others may be thinking about you, like your coach, parents or teammates.
Regardless of what you are thinking about, thinking is always hazardous to your performance health as an athlete. It distracts your focus from the task at hand in the moment, tightens you up physically and sets you up to fail miserably.
The real problem here is that thinking is a product of your FRONT BRAIN. Your front brain is fine for analyzing mistakes, planning new strategies for the next game, evaluating past performances, etc. All these things that should be done in practice! However, the biggest shortcoming of your front brain is that it is very VERY slow in it’s processing. In fact, your front brain or conscious mind is so slow that it can never adequately keep up with the quickness involved in sports execution. Trying to think your way through a performance is always doomed to fail because of this. Your FRONT BRAIN is just simply inadequate in being able to handle the demands of an on-going performance.
Peak performance can only happen when you completely turn your execution and play over to your HIND BRAIN or your muscle memory. Your hind brain processes information unconsciously and instantaneously and so is able to keep up with the moment by moment shifts that occur in all sports execution. When you go to perform you need to focus on the task at hand, trust your training, relax and let your HIND BRAIN take over.
The best way to get good at doing this is to try to be aware whenever you start thinking or instructing yourself during the performance. With that awareness, you then want to refocus your concentration back into the moment and what you are doing in the performance. Make a deal with yourself to think about and analyze your performance all you want AFTER it’s over!