Via Loren Fogelman: Stepping out of your comfort zone is the norm for competitive athletes. Highly motivated athletes are expected to train harder, perform better for optimal results. High performance is easiest under ideal conditions.
If you’ve been competing for any length of time, you know conditions are not always in your favor. Maintaining focus during crunch time, facing adverse conditions, requires confidence, focus and a strong skill set.
How you respond to adversity is what separates the winners from all the other athletes. A small margin exists in the physical abilities between elite athletes. Frequently it is just one point, one shot or a fraction of a second to claim the winning title.
How can an athlete transform from a choker, underperforming when pressured, to a clutch player, rising up to the challenge at crunch time?
- Challenge – When do you choke under pressure? Awareness of the events causing you to lose focus is your starting point.
- Story – What do you tell yourself when you’re feeling pressured? Confidence is replaced by anxiety during high pressure moments. Without you realizing what is happening under the surface your thoughts start shifting to the problem. The most confident athletes crumble under pressure. It’s all due to a shift in their perception.
- Detachment – Many athletes are tied to their story. If something unexpected occurs, then you react a certain way. Fight, flight or freeze are the most common responses. Even though you probably aren’t in a dangerous situation your brain is responding as if you are going to be attacked. What causes you to choke is your emotional response. Clutch athletes size up the situation, without a lot of emotion. Remaining neutral, and slightly detached, dramatically shifts your perception. You want to act, not react, under pressure.
- Insights – lead to a solution. Take an honest assessment of your typical response to crunch time moments. Often a pattern exists. Sometimes it’s obvious to everyone but you. Discover how you cope during tough high pressure moments. Decide if your response is really working for you now.