This is a question that I am frequently asked by athletes as they point out various “head games” that other competitors have unexpectedly sprung on them right before or during a game. So they want my valuable and wise advice on how best to intimidate the opposition. Well, here it is! DON’T WASTE YOUR ENERGY AND FOCUS OF CONCENTRATION DISTRACTING YOURSELF IN THIS WAY!
If you really want to intimidate the competition, and I mean REALLY knock them off their game, then what you need to do is to simply stay focused on yourself and play your own game. Let your opponent see that you are completely unfazed by them.
Years ago I remember interviewing Michelle Akers on the taking penalty kicks. At the time, Michelle had been one of the super-stars of the US women’s team and a major reason for their winning the 1999 World Cup. She claimed that a lot of keepers try saying and doing all kinds of things in an attempt to psych out or intimidate the kicker. Michelle told me that whenever she faced this kind of keeper, she always felt calmer and more confident because she had a good sense that the goalie was really more distracted and intimidated by her! The keepers that she found the most intimidating and most worrisome were those athletes who didn’t even acknowledge her as she got ready to kick. Instead, they remained focused on themselves and their own pre-performance rituals.
I firmly believe that trying to intimidate or psych out the competition is a great way to knock yourself off center and make yourself anxious. Engaging in these kinds of behaviors gets you concentrating on the wrong things, i.e. your opponent and thus takes you completely away from your own game. As Akers indicated, there is nothing quite as intimidating as an opponent who totally ignores you and just focuses on herself and her job.
So the next time that you think about wanting to really intimidate your opponent, be smart! Let that desire quickly go and instead, refocus yourself on staying calm, loose and playing your own game. Those athletes who consistently engage in head games right before or during a competition don’t really believe in themselves. They don’t really believe that their game is good enough as it is to beat you so they try to distract you by triggering your emotions. Don’t fall for this lame garbage!
Remember, there is nothing quite as intimidating as facing an opponent who, no matter what you do or say, is totally unaffected by you and therefore, continues to play their own game.