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Equate nerves as a good thing...
The most important thing to recognize is that we all get competition nerves, even the very best athletes. Professional athletes say they want to feel nerves as it increases their focus, concentration and determination to play well. Professional golfers say it is more likely they’ll shoot a 62 in competition than in practice. The key is to learn how to control nerves, so they work for you. If you don't recognize and control nerves, it will affect your physical and mental state. Nreves can get in the way of the skills you practice every day and can easily execute in a practice run in skiing, or a round in golf. Breathing is a great way to control your nerves but even a simple shift in perspective will help. The reason you train so hard is so you can repeat these skills in competition. Repetition and drills help create the skill set to make you "ready". Game days, race days - that is what you train for!!
Nerves mean you’re no longer in your comfort zone - you are "ready to react" to the competition. Your best round, your best race, game or competition will come when you’re under pressure, as your senses become heightened and your mind-set is more competitive. Every time you feel nerves, you have something powerful you can use to play your best. Even just thinking in this way will help.
When we consider any “achievement orientated” situation the “unknown” often threatens us. This is true for athletes but as well for business people, performers, students, coaches, and others! In these situations the adrenaline will flow, which means that blood flow and heart rate will increase. To me, this means simply… YOU ARE READY ! These feelings, however, can create anxiety and get in the way of peak performance. Optimally, we want to learn how to manage these feelings and create the Ideal Performance State pre-event. We do this by developing a Pre-event Routine.
A pre-event routine creates a mindset for success. I have seen a lot of athletes and performers warming up “physically” but failing to prepare “mentally” to be at their best. Here are 6 pointers to help you build a good pre-event routine.
As Vince Lombardi, famous football coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “ The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”
Total preparation requires more than training, fitness, and nutrition – it requires being mentally prepared. To be composed under adversity you must work on pre-event routines to reach the ideal performance state. It is these series of routine, practiced behaviors that reduce anxiety and increase focus and attention. This pre-event routine should be practiced and rehearsed so that it becomes automatic.
For more information or a “personal” strategy contact Jan.
What is IPS?
- where mind and body are working together
- a special mental/emotional interior climate
How do I get this?
- focus on what you CAN control
- stay in the “here and now”
- focus on your strengths and what has been going well
- use “cue” words that will elicit a “physical” response ie) lunge forward, power, edge
- strive for success rather than perfection
- “winning ugly” proves you don’t have to be perfect
- trust your training – you ARE ready for this
- become a warrior!
Visualize using all 5 senses
Use progressive breath and relaxation from foot to head to really slow down the nerves
Find the FLOW – the effortless but focused, confident, relaxed, automatic response to racing
- feel the experience of “play” and passion vs. anxiety
- stay focused on the process of skiing the race not on the outcome or results
Here is what you CAN control and what the best athletes focus on…
- Attitude – what you bring to training everyday and on race day
- Motivation – the right balance between arousal and relaxation
- Preparation – TRUST your training
- Concentration – knowing what to focus on and what is just “distracting” * keep the image of filling up your cup in mind
- Performance on Demand – relaxing enough under pressure to achieve Peak Performance
Remember the stories of Manny and Cary Mullen
GO GET ‘EM,
As John McEnroe, 3 time Wimbledon Tennis Champion said, “If only I could tame the lion inside me without putting out the fire.”
Here was a player who was so gifted in talent, and yet so unpredictable and undisciplined in controlling his emotions. When an athlete feels angry, upset, anxious or hostile during a game or event they are compromising their ability to perform at an optimal level. For those performers who are at the highest echelon, most competitors come with a similar set of physical skills and any competitor COULD win on any given day. This is why it is so important for athletes and performers to find an OPTIMAL level of stress and mood. This is the mental preparation that will separate the winners and those that will fall behind.
In sports, as in life, we must all prepare to handle the unexpected. It is our ability to prepare for, and overcome these adversities that define our performance outcomes. Athletes must have more than the “physicality” to win - they must have the mental toughness and tenacity to get through all the adversities they face.
Anyone striving for excellence is always trying to find that “magic formula” that will help them achieve Peak Performance. Let’s examine some of the characteristics that will help you get there.
When elite athletes describe their “Peak Performances” to me they all seem to have shared these critical elements.
Playing your best or competing at the highest level isn’t just about talent – it’s about practicing and training harder and smarter. “Deliberate practice” is not the easiest part of being an athlete…it is not flashy or exciting but it is the only way to take a world class talent and turn it into it’s best version of itself! Try these basic steps…
1. Set an intention for every practice or training session
2. Go do it…
3. Evaluate the gap between intention and success…
Here’s a final thought…#3 is the most important!😜
Momentum in sports can cause a shift in performance and competitive outcome. After last night’s Stanley Cup victory, Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks head coach said “they carried ‘momentum’ from Saturday’s win into the next game.”
Once you’ve got momentum on your side you can keep playing with confidence and compete with that fearless aggressiveness that got you there. Momentum changes the athletes sense of control, confidence, optimism, motivation and energy. Naturally, momentum can change throughout a game but focused athletes can bring it back by a simple and predictable point of focus. In golf, this could be your pre-shot routine; in tennis, watching the ball; in general just pushing through and demanding more.
Become your “inner coach” and imagine what your coach would say to adjust your focus and attention. Try to see your arousal/nerves as “excitement” rather than anxiety. When you get distracted by the physical symptoms you get more consumed by them. You allow your inner critic to be a lot more active than you “inner coach”. Trust your training and bank on the skills you’ve repeated over and over. You’ve got this!
Athletes often say to me that they can’t control the nerves but I know that with practice they can! The mind is such a powerful thing but it takes dedicated practice to learn new behaviors. “If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we will keep getting the same result”! If you really want to make changes you have to commit to learning new strategies and practicing them in the heat of competition.
As Tiger Woods says, “ I always feel pressure. If you don’t feel nervous, that means you don’t care about how you play. I care about how I preform. I always said the day I’m not nervous playing is the day I quit”.
Psychiatrists now know that anxiety can be good for us. When the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises and glucose surges in our bloodstream — when we’re challenged — it sharpens our senses and reactions. It teaches our body to perform better. So let’s work on embracing the butterflies and letting them help us to achieve “peak performance”!
Athletic careers are filled with fluctuations of fortune…as they say “from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat”.
Golfers, in particular, often face adversity. “Golf is a game of resiliency,” says PGA Tour pro Zach Johnson, who has 18 professional wins, including the ’07 Masters and 2015 British Open. “I know I am going to have bad days with the good days. [But] if I continue to trust in my systems, both on and off the course, bouncing back is a lot easier. Trusting in my routines—golf shot routines, training routines and mental routines—will get me through the poor rounds.”
Pre-game for Johnson means having an easy, but focused approach. He says, “I relax before I get to my ball; then I re-focus [and] make my decision on how to hit the next shot. I execute the next shot with no outcome-oriented thoughts. Then I finally react to the shot for a brief moment.”
“I really just talk to myself each day on the things I can control…my routines; my tempo/rhythm; my walk on the course; and positive thoughts on how I can embrace difficult situations. Keeping all that fresh in my head allows me to stay in the moment every hole.”
One day, one round, one shot – these do not define you. Focus on all your strengths, your successes, your systems.
Mackenzie Barrie, a local Junior golfer who plays at the University of Wyoming has had shown remarkable resilience over the past 2 tournaments. Last week at the BC Cup in Richmond, she won the tournament after starting the day 7 back. The days before were a struggle and a grind but she came to play on the last day and won by 3 strokes. This week at the PGA Junior MJT Tournament at Predator Ridge she shot a 79 on the first day but came back on the final day with a 69 to win the tournament. That is the bounce back effect every athlete hopes for – that’s resilience!
During this weekend’s Solheim Cup, Suzann Pettersen from the European side, made a controversial decision, in the heat of competition. In this case a “ rule of golf ” was clearly broken when an unconceded putt was picked up. What is unclear is whether the “ spirit of good sportsmanship ” should have prevailed over a rule for a single point. In match play, short putts are often “given” and this putt was certainly within that “gimmie” range. Golf, however, seems to be a sport that is judged at a higher standard – steeped in tradition and integrity, and governed by a very clear set of rules but also by a spirit of sportsmanship. Professional athletes are not perfect – they are as imperfect and flawed as the rest of us. Suzanne has been publicly shamed for her actions – it will be hard for her to recover from this harsh criticism. Yesterday she issued a public apology and I believe it was sincere. She is trying to right a wrong. She believes in the integrity of the game and proves it with this apology (below).
Many athletes get stuck in the notion that they need to perform “perfectly” to perform their best. The truth is, it is more important to perform “efficiently” instead of perfectly. Mistakes will happen when you compete – trust your athletic instincts and reactions. You train hard to compete and often you get in your own way. You get focused on a “result” instead of the experience. You fear losing after all the investment of practicing and perfecting your technique. You let anxiety, tension and worry about achieving results get in the way of doing what you have trained to do! Results and outcomes are “out of your hands” – they will be what they are, and you will grow and build on them.
In past articles I’ve talked a lot about what is “ physically ” required for Peak Performance and Ideal Performance State (IPS). These are the skills you work on every day – the training you do to master the techniques you need to compete at the highest level. In order to be at the top of your game nothing can replace the long hours needed to hone these skills. There are, however, ways that can help you make sure these “ physical ” skills are matched “ mentally ”!
Emotions are much like muscles…the ones you train the most, the ones you practice and stimulate, become the ones you display the most. An athlete who can readily bring to life the feelings of confidence, readiness, energy and motivation will move their body’s emotional chemistry into the direction demanded for IPS. It is like acting a part. Research shows us that the physiological changes that occur in the “acted-out” emotions (like facial relaxation, intense eyes, shoulders down, relaxed breathing, confident body language) are the same as those that occur in a real, genuine, spontaneous emotion. There is a very powerful connection between the way you FEEL and the way you ACT and for any performer this has to be part of the IPS. This article is a good read.
A great example of honing this skill is the tennis great Roger Federer. You will rarely see any sign of emotion – especially negative emotion in his body language. His expressions remain very stoic and consistent – he reeks of confidence. No displays of anger, fear or frustration will show in him despite the fact that he may be experiencing them. He keeps his competitors at bay with his confident body language and his obvious skill set.