At some point in your athletic experience you will most likely participate in some kind of playoff. These games come with greater pressure, more potential anxiety, and greater emotional highs and lows. So, what are the best ways to manage these very difficult times? This article is going to highlight three principles for putting your best foot forward during the playoffs.
First, have Realistic Expectations. Young athletes hurt their own performance as well as their teams when they think that everything they try should work, or they shouldn’t have to deal with things that go the other teams way. I have found that the more unrealistic the expectations the more intense the frustration. Having unrealistic expectations sets us up to be unprepared for what is most likely to occur therefore, putting us at a disadvantage when events unfold that are out of alignment with what we thought would happen.
Second, Focus on Actions Rather than Results. In pressure filled situations it becomes very difficult to remain poised and emotionally stable. When our bodies become overwhelmed with anxiety and adrenaline our judgment may become compromised and we become prone to outbursts of frustration and anger sometimes resulting in taking a penalty, committing an untimely foul, or simply performing tentatively resulting in less then excellent performance. This is heightened when we become over focused on results rather then the actions that are required to earn the results that lead to victories and excellent performance.
Third, Exhibit Emotional Flexibility. Playoff time is filled with ups and downs. There are moments of great excitement as well as great despair. Because of these paradoxical moments athletes are forced to deal with these ups and downs with poise and with grace. Doing this requires the capacity to be flexible and not allowing one’s emotions to get too high or too low. A phrase I have used for years to summarize this principle is “Never too high, never too low”.
Playoffs test our mental, physical and emotional preparedness. With the tips above, the uncertainty and pressure of playoff time can be an opportunity to shine and reveal your Mental Edge on your competition.
Best to you this playoff season!
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