No matter what sport we are playing, we all have at one time or another had trouble playing under pressure. Many times I have heard athletes say that they play or perform better in practice than in an event or tournament.
In practice, we are loose and relaxed — focused — clear headed and usually performing extremely well. We have no worries or any distractions cluttering our mind that keep us from performing well. In a tournament, we walk in and perceive such an importance for the event that we immediately tighten up, our focus is all over the place, our heads are filled with distractions and our game is on the far side of terrible. Sound familiar??
Currently, I am working with several athletes from different sports and almost all of them are battling with this problem of “poor tournament play”!! We talk and work on several mental skills to change this happening — skills that will allow my athletes to flip this attitude around. By flipping it around, they are able to play their best in tournaments and major events in their sport. In fact, they start looking forward to the major event because they now realize that it is what they practice for! This is their reason for playing their sport and it is the place that they will shine. This change in their thinking goes along way to allowing them to play or perform to their potential in major events in their sport.
One of the most important skills that my players work on to fit with this thinking — is creating a pre-shot or pre-serve or pre-event routine. The goal of the routine (which is a combination of mental and physical actions) is to put our mind into our best focus (the focus that allows us to perform to our highest ability). Building this routine takes some effort through planning it out and then practicing it. Probably, we all have some form of routine going for us already. Our routine will involve several steps that include repeatable physical and mental actions —- the physical could be a practice move of your sport and an example of a mental action could be visualizing the upcoming action (like a tennis serve). Somewhere in this process should be some action that taps into our innate relaxation response!
Done properly, this routine moves us into the present moment by clearing our mind of distractions. It creates the mental and physical conditions in which we play our best. The tournament or major event becomes our time to shine. Contact Coach Neer at Silent Mind Sports to begin your work on chasing those tournament blues away!