Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself. – Chinese Proverb
Hi, and welcome back to the star player academy show, episode 88.
This is Marilyn Wo, I help serious athletes like you get your mind back in the game.
Your job as an athlete isn’t actually to win your rivals, but to figure out ways so perform your particular sport skill as consistently as possible and as well as you can under fatigue and pressure conditions in a competitive environment.
As I’ve mentioned time and again, whatever you do during training and games be it pre-season or in-season, you have to always aim to learn more about yourself so that you know what you need to do to better your standards every time.
If you aren’t able to be better than yourself even in normal, relaxed and less stressful day-to-day environment, what makes you think you can do better than your rival who is also striving to do their best?
This week, I aim to center our lessons around the theme of a question commonly asked, that is “Why do I do so much better in practice than in competitions?”
I’ve previously dabbled in this issue before in an earlier episode, I believe that was episode 5.
But when it comes to making sure you are performing as efficiently as possible requires many aspects of your life. You need to have proper physical and mental conditioning, the right nutrition and best quality of sleep. In this day and age when there’s so much noise in the world to distract you, it’s hard to not invite junk into your lives we think is good for us. As a matter of fact it’s impairing the way we think and making it tougher for us to have a clearer vision towards the right direction.
Before I go into any of that, I would like to bust one big myth around this problem.
So what’s the myth?
Most athletes think that it’s just a matter of being confident in one’s abilities to be able to overcome this.
I’m not saying it’s not confidence, what I’m trying to say is that it’s much much more than that. It’s strange that there’s more to confidence when you need to only execute a simple skill during a game. That’s because you got to battle with things like pressure, expectations and everything other than the game. But once you are able to understand how this simple skill can be done in such environment and practice it till it hurts, you are on your way to personal mastery.
What I will do here for the first 3 episodes of this week is to uncover why it’s easier for you to do what you need to do at practice yet get stuck in competitions, then I will move to how do you get unstuck to unleash your greatest potential as much as possible whenever you need to do so.
First let me break down this question in to 8 major chunks which you must understand first, well in advance before any training in order for you to overcome this problem in the specific question: “why do I do so much better in practice than in competitions?”
1. Concentration. How and what you concentrate on depends on what certain situation means to you. It’s not new that practices or training sessions are taken as no big deal situations. They are usually taken as just part of the routine or even something that athletes dread of. I can understand that. Not many people are excited enough to hop out of bed every morning, change into the right gear and get going with training with zest and enthusiasm. It’s normal even for the greatest athletes in the world.
I’m sure you know Andre Agassi, he is an eight-time Grand Slam winner in tennis. Based on reports, he admitted after retiring that he didn’t actually enjoy the game while he was making a living with his racket. You may think it’s strange, but it’s not abnormal that great athletes who are able to show results experience times that need them to get unstuck as well.
2. Innate Motivation. If you find yourself getting excited and can’t wait to go training, that’s great for you, ultimately you have that innate motivation to drive you to get started and take action. Even so, this comes from somewhere. What is it that brought you this motivation? It could be that you’ve had enjoyable experiences at previous sessions and you are anticipating for the same or even better experience in the upcoming session. In this case, you will have to figure out what drives you. The ideal driver should be that true desire within yourself to participate in that sport alone and nothing else. Most of us are not even sure why we are there in the first place and we end up being driven by the companionship and relationships with our teammates. It’s not that great athletes do not enjoy their sport with friends or teammates, in fact, this factor is necessary because humans are social by nature. But great athletes are driven first by the deep belief that they can overcome uncomfortable situations and they are aware that it’s only by pushing themselves to do harder tasks that makes them better than before. They know what their deepest desire is and that’s the first nudge that tells them to take the first step. So dig deeper within yourself figure out that reason to your motivation before you move on.
3. Every Game is a Big Deal. This is really hard, because if you have a game every other day, it’s not easy to stay at your optimum form every time. However, that is the challenge when it comes to being in this environment. It may be tough at the start, once you have developed this habit in at least a month or so, it will get easier. Then you will find that your thoughts and nervous levels between your usual training and games start to balance up and that’s when you can easily cope with your competitions just as how you cope on usual days. You may think, “this is not new, it’s just telling myself to practice like I’m in a competition and perform like I practice.” You are not wrong, but it’s also more than just knowing. Being aware is a great step, but it doesn’t just end there.
4.Special Force. You need to understand first and foremost what is that special “force” that helps you to perform to your potential. You need to intentionally uncover this so that you can focus on working on that area and use that time and again to replicate that same system to perform your best.
5. Use the Same Words Every Time. During those days when I was involved in at least a few competitions a year in Canoe Polo, I realised that my teammates and coaches will say completely different things during competitions and training. Also, a lot of us will normally use different tone of speaking at different occasions. During trainings, our tone of speech is usually very trying and sort of less cliche without much passion in it. Once in awhile I do catch that from a few of my teammates and coaches, but most of the time, I could tell we were sort of “waiting” for the “day” to come. You know it’s like the competition day is sort of the “wedding day” while the training sessions are the “dating periods” when we anticipate for the big day to arrive.
It’s strange that usually during training sessions we do not hear certain words that somehow appear during competitions. These could be things like: “make this count”, or “you can win this team”, or “this is the last time we are playing this game, there is no more chance if we lose this game”. Why do we not just have a set of phrases that we use from the start till the end of every season? Isn’t it better to get ourselves prepared with the same words that we know we will hear in training sessions and competitions rather than to get all anxious and confused when we try to interpret the “new” words on the final day? Training sessions and games day are just as important, if not why do we make that commitment to train and be present till the last day of the match?
6. Competitions are Like School Exams. You know, I slowly realised that competitions with medals and accolades are merely like school or institutional exams. Getting a gold medal is like you are rewarded with a Grade A or distinction for doing well in your exams and it provides you with a stepping stone to getting a good job in future. Then when you finally landed with that good job, you start to feel trapped and can’t wait to break out of that freedom to do better with your life. Only when you are in this situation you realised you have been working so hard only to fulfil the societal’s view other than from the unique perspective from your true self hidden somewhere inside of you.
I’m not sure if you understand any part of what I’m trying to say. In a nutshell, I’m trying to give you a common example for you to understand what you should in fact focus on when it comes to performance. After years of experience in this environment, I came to realise that everything is important. Prioritising of tasks comes when you need to act on things, but in your mind, you must always be telling yourself that your training sessions are as important as the competitions. I think the society somehow puts losing as a disgrace and winning as something that’s the only way.
Then you might say, “but this is how it has been for a long long time and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away, only if we conform then we can get the trust and belief of people around us to support us”.
Yes, it’s not wrong if you may have this sort of thinking because most of us have been brought up in a way that results are the rewards if not, you will not get anything like “no money”, “no media coverage”, no anything. Sadly, most of us have not been guided clearly between showing results and having a vision to chase our own personal dreams.
There’s a reason why most athletes aren’t able to live a normal life after retiring from competitive sports altogether. For some, their day to day routine has changed while for some, they feel empty inside for not able to compete anymore to win the shiny objects they were once able to. Somehow, winning medals become a part of their lives, may not be for glory, but they are just so used to such rewards as part of them, that without that reward as the end goal, they think they are losers, failures or useless in life. Many of them fell into depression or even committed suicide because of living with such motivation.
7.Your Mental Approach. Based on research, you tend to perform to your potential when you focus on the task that is important for a period of time. But if you tend to have a mindset that sees a competition as something more important than your training sessions, then you will end up focussing on outcome and results. You hope that it stops there, but for many people, it leads to worry about making mistakes, embarrassment, about what others think or disappointing their teammates.
8.Focus on What is Important not When It’s Important. That is if you focus on the day of competition as important. But if you focus on the task as the important thing regardless if it’s to be done at practice or competitions, there’s no thinking involved at this point in time. You just simply see what you need to do and act on it as and when required. There isn’t any worrying or thoughts of messing up. You are just focussed on what you are doing there and then. In this condition, you stay loose and relaxed. Technically and ideally, this should be practiced so that it becomes second nature to you as soon as possible. You may never know when, but being intentional about it helps to shorten the time so that it will happen when your next competition day arrives.
With that, we have come to the end of today’s episode.
Before you go, I have a quote for you taken from a Chinese proverb, it said, “Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.”
Thank you all for joining me today. If you are wondering what you can do to be the best athlete you can ever be, go to starplayeracademy.com, I’ve prepared a cheat sheet that shows you 15 success traits of a serious athlete that you can follow in one glance. So head over to starplayeracademy.com right now, and till tomorrow.
I look forward to see you become a StarPlayer.
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