SPA 005: How to Perform under competition Pressure

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – Muhammad Ali

Honestly, if you feel pressure surmounting upon you on games that matter, chances are your opponents feel the same way too. Thing is why are they pressurised to perform? What’s causing them to feel that way? How about you? What is it that makes you fumble when you need to make it work? Back in the 2005 Canoe Polo Asian Championships, I made a terrible mistake, the mistake wasn’t tactical, nothing to do with the actions I did in the games. It was the mistake of allowing how people’s perception of my team dictate my performance. What do I mean by that?
Back up a year to 2004, my team lost to the Japanese team in the World Championships by 27 to none.
It was the worst game ever for Singapore based on score difference. It didn’t matter that much for us when we were still in Japan. Our morale was pretty low but we were optimistic and told ourselves that it is a journey we needed to go through. But when we returned to Singapore, people started talking. There were a bit of criticisms and sarcastic remarks of us being thrashed horribly by the Japanese ladies. We were initially quite contented with our performance as we managed to beat one team in our international debut. We knew there was more to come so took the thrashing pretty lightly. Hence, I was totally taken aback when it meant so much to those who focussed on our lost rather than our winning game.
This led to the major mistake I made in 2005, I brought to the competition ground with the illusion that everything we do matters to the people back home. It was all about what people would feel and say about us rather than overcoming one thing at a time. This focus drew so much mental space from me that I had left with very little reserves to concentrate on the games at hand. I did not perform to what I expected and we lost to Iran to come in second in Asia. It was devastating because we were very close, we had scoring chances, we knew how we needed to defend. We simply couldn’t dominate when required to do so.
Lesson learned, on top of ignoring what people have to say is to prepare how to take on pressure ahead of the game. This experience made me research and figure out ways to overcome pressure and perform better. Hope it helps you too.

In summary:

Make decision making a part of your everyday life. It’s a bit of an effort from the start, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes a powerful skill not just for your game but in anything you do in life.

Links and resources mentioned in this show:

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Extra: Book recommendation – Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Cheap Heath and Dan Heath

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