When the going gets tough, the tough get going, especially in matches when the pressure is on, and you and others expect you to deliver the goods! Does it feel like sometimes, or even mostly, that you perform much better in training than in matches?
The reason for this is due to the nerves, tension, and pressure you feel in matches as opposed to the freedom and pleasure you feel in training. When you practise you have second chances and the opportunity to keep rehearsing until you get it right!
The expectations you have set for yourself in a match, the expectations of your team-mates, the expectations of your coaches, the expectations of your parents, the expectations of your peers, the expectations of those imaginary spectators/selectors whom you think have their eyes on you and only you, and the list goes on and on. All of these expectations add to the pressure of competition.
In matches and competition, your performance is in the spotlight in the here and now! Often your only chance to make your mark appears for a few moments and never again. It is your job to be able to rise to the occasion in these particular moments, when the odds are stacked against you, or when the slightest opportunity presents itself. This is when you as a competitor need to feel the butterflies in your stomach and intensity of the pressure, and utilise it to its full extent to express more of your potential and make that moment count in your or your team’s favour. These scenarios are what makes competition so intensely pressurising, and at the same time so exciting, that your heart wants to burst out of your chest and shout out the magic of your great feat to the entire world.
The emotions that are evoked by the expectation, pressure and intensity of competition are the source of the overflowing waterfall of a very important chemical called ADRENALINE!
As a sportsman in competition, ADRENALINE is always going to find its way into your system, regardless of whether you are a beginner or a master at your sport. You know that ADRENALINE is knocking at the door when your heart begins to beat faster, your hands become sweaty and cold, your vision starts to narrow, your body feels heavier, and your muscles feel stiffer. These are only just some of the signs that you may feel when adrenaline is secreted in your body under pressure. Adrenaline is a very powerful chemical, which can either enhance performance, or it can cripple your performance. Champions have learned to use ADRENALINE to their advantage.
Champions realise, that the symptoms adrenaline brings on usually, will not change with experience, however their perception of how these symptoms and chemicals can be embraced and utilised certainly can! Champions learn to adjust their perceptions of the negative sensations evoked by ADRENALINE so that these sensations can be translated into the excitement and exhilaration of capturing the moment. They practise viewing these negative sensations as tools that, if felt and defined as valuable, can enhance their performance. As they continue, to welcome these sensations and perceive them as positive ones, they begin to digest and process them as so, manufacturing a chemical reaction that not only raises performance levels but can at times break records and make history!
Expectations, tension, anxiety and pressure and their best friend, ADRENALINE are always going to be part of competition.
Let’s look at some of the steps that help champions perceive their adrenaline related sensations in a positive way:
- They have trained their mind to value more of their opinions of their performance, than the opinions of others
- They set the intention of giving the best that they can at each moment of competition.
- As they feel the negative sensations associated with adrenaline, they begin conversing with these feelings as if they are parts of themselves, “who” are there to support their best performance.
- They have trained their minds to zoom more into their strengths, than into their weaknesses.
- They have accepted wholeheartedly that the intensity and pressure of competition is here to stay, and they have learned to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.
- They have learned that feeling, channelling and harnessing the negative feelings (e.g. doubt, anger, and anxiety, etc.) which come with match play will, in fact, enhance their performance.
- They have experimented and automated their own sensory tools, which hone their focus into the moment and therefore keep in as much as humanly possible, the here and now, The Zone that all great sportspeople strive for.
So next time you notice the negative sensations and feelings of adrenaline and/or stress rearing its ugly head, I challenge you to acquaint yourself with these perceived enemies. Take some time to get to know them better. Make an attempt to dialogue with them, be playful with them. Perhaps they can be perceived as old friends, instead of as enemies, whom you can access for support and maybe even for pleasure if you so dare to choose them as such.