Sports Psychology – Master the Success Formula
Have you ever competed against an opponent who was not as dedicated as you or did not work as hard as you do, but somehow found a way to beat you in competition.
Under performing can be super-frustrating for most athletes. My coaching students think it is frustrating. They says things such as, "I work at my game harder than anyone. Why do less talented or lazy athletes always beat me? I can't stand it! "
My simple answer, "Hard work and talent alone is not the complete formula for success." However, the reason behind under-performance is more complex.
Most motivated, perfectionistic athletes, who work their tail end off every day in practice, cannot stomach getting beat by hackers or slackers. Slackers are athletes who don't practice much, appear as though they don't care about their sport, or are unorthodox with their methods. How frustrating is it to get beat by one!
The ironic part is that dedicated, motivated athletes use their frustration to work even harder so they can win in the next competition. However, more work leads to greater emotional investment. Greater emotional investment leads to high expectations and even higher frustration after failure.
You can see that it is a vicious cycle. How do you break the cycle?
Perfectionistic, hard-working athletes - a coach's dream – have trouble breaking the cycle because they believe that it is impossible to practice or train too much. In their minds, more effort and practice is the formula for success.
From my experience, success in sports does not always work this way.
What is the first step to breaking the negative cycle of hard work - lack of success - frustration – and more hard work?
If you are very motivated or perfectionistic, the first step is to realize that your attitude might not be as effective as you think. Also you must realize that you can work too hard in sports.
Doing more reps, laps, shots, or spending more time in practice than anyone else does not always translate into effective practice.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, then you need to recognize that trying harder does not produce peak performance. I realize that your emotional investment in *success* is pushing you, driving you, ultimately causing you to fall short of your potential.
Most highly motivated, perfectionistic athletes have half of the success formula correct. They have an intense internal drive to succeed and are willing to put in the time needed to become good.
All great athletes have this mindset down pat such as Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Vijay Singh. However, they possess the other component to the success formula too. These athletes are able to get the most from their ability when they compete.
You *must* keep this principle in mind when you train and practice. Practice and training are only effective if they help you perform well in competition. This is the real reason why you train or practice, correct?
This leads me to the other hard-to-grasp variable in the success formula - a powerful mental game producing the ability to compete under pressure in crunch-time. Hard working perfectionistic athletes get in their own way by over-thinking, over-analyzing, trying too hard, and becoming consumed with tension or anxiety.
The biggest reason you get in your own way and underperform is that you so badly want to succeed. Fear of failure is like a thorn in your side not allowing you to focus fully on your performance.
Here are some tips to help you embrace a success-driven mindset, free of fear, every time you enter competition.
1. Let go of unrealistic expectations. Extremely high expectations can make your feel like a failure no matter what you do. It’s just not realistic to expect to score perfectly every time you get the ball or have the chance to score. High expectations make you judge your performance continuously. Setting attainable goals for the game that allows for human error is a better option. The purpose of this is to be able to “move on” when you make mistakes.
2. Emphasize fun, not being perfect. You are probably very hard on yourself in practice and games. The tension and frustration you experience partially results from an overemphasis on trying to be perfect. Try to have fun with your football. Enjoy the time you spend on the field instead of judging yourself on how well you are doing on each play.
3. Don't dwell on shortcomings. If you are a perfectionist, you spend a lot of time dwelling on the mistakes you make and weaknesses. This is unhealthy for your self-confidence and doesn't let you enjoy your sport. You are not a failure; you just choose to think more about your faults. You have to make the choice to think about what you did well in each practice and game. Remember the good plays and downs instead of replaying your errors or mistakes.
4. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Perfectionists think that anything less than a flawless performance is a failure. You have to accept that you are human and you will have bad days just like everyone else. Sometimes it helps to give yourself permission to make mistakes. You're not perfect and even the best football players in the world make mistakes.
5. Sit the closed book test. I tell many of my athletes that practice is for training and improving technique and competition is for putting your skills to the test. This works!
Want to learn simple, proven mental toughness skills that you can apply to competition? Grab my free online mental training newsletter, Sports Insights Magazine - for athletes, coaches, and sports parents:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Patrick Cohn is a master mental game coach who work with professional and amateur athletes, sports parents, and teams of all levels. Visit http://www.peaksports.com for more information.