posted on: June 12, 2019
author: Brian Lomax
In competition, you are always building toward some end, some culmination. It might be the end of a tournament, the end of a match, or the end of a performance. The present moment is almost never the end itself, but this is where things can get confusing. What you are doing in the present moment is contributing to that end, but it is not the end. You want to be as focused and intense in the present as you can, yet still realize that you are building toward the ultimate conclusion. And hopefully, you are building toward a victory. In order to do that, you have to know what really matters, what really counts, and how to get from the start of an event to its conclusion.
Competition is comprised of components such as points, plays, movements, distances, etc. We strive to perform our best in these small components, and if we do that well, then those well executed small components will add up to a good performance. The difficulty comes when we become judgmental about how we are performing in those moments.
Once the present moment has passed, it’s common to react to it in a way that may show that you are confusing what just happened for what you are trying to achieve. For example, if you lost the first point of a game in a tennis match, there is nothing to get upset about. The score is 0-15 and there is plenty of time and opportunity to recover. Reacting negatively to such moments may actually harm your ability to reach your ultimate goal of winning the match. The only thing that has been affected in that moment is probability; your probability of winning that game is a little less than your opponent’s. That’s nothing to get too upset about. You have a chance to get back in the game on the next point. And if you lose the game, there is almost always another game.
In any competition, whether it’s a figure skating performance, a football game, or a tennis match, there is a journey from the beginning of the event to the end. You must understand the process to navigate the journey and come out on top. In football, a team has to score more points than its opponent in 60 minutes. In tennis, there is no clock so it’s a bit different. The journey is getting from 0 games to 6 (or 7) before the opponent. And of course, you have to do that twice in order to win the match. There are going to be difficult moments along the way, but don’t let them distract you from the ultimate objective. You must know what you have to accumulate (i.e., points in football, goals in hockey, sets in tennis), and how to achieve that in order to have a chance to be successful that day.
If you can understand this process, it should help you to stay in the competition mentally all the way to the end. From a mental skills perspective, the key skills involved in navigating your way through a competition are bringing your best to the moment, being non-judgmental of whatever just happened, letting go of any emotional attachment to the past, and refocusing on the next moment. Delay any emotional gratification until the end. The longer you keep yourself in it mentally, the better your chance of winning. This is particularly true of sports with a direct opponent (i.e., tennis, football, hockey, basketball, soccer).
Using these skills effectively will help you be relentless in your journey through a competition. This rationale is particularly effective in those competitions that are difficult or perhaps require a miracle to win. You need to stick to this plan and be persistent throughout the event. Remember, you are building toward the end. As a parting thought, I will conclude with this quote on persistence from a tweet by the writer Anne Lamott, “So never give up, no matter how things look, or how long they take. Don’t quit before the miracle. Deal?” Perfectly stated.
Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.
Learn more about the author: https://performancextra.com/brian-lomax/