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When It Matters Most

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Over the past few weeks, the world was watching as some of the most talented and skilled athletes took the largest stage there is. Those athletes have been training all their lives for that one moment. It was their chance to prove to the world all they had to offer, to make their countries proud, and return home, medal in hand.

How do you consistently perform your best, especially when it matters most?

Let’s look at this idea of “when it matters most.” In essence, it all matters. If you think about the days and hours you spend practicing, chances are that percentage of time far outweighs time spent in competitive performance. So – how do you make the most of all the moments?

1. Bring awareness to your ideal performance mindset, where “performance” doesn’t just apply to game time. When you’re your best, what’s in play? Do you thrive or crumble under stress? Is your pre-game focus internal [all-game-all-the-time] or external [distractive]? Where’s your confidence and how do you bolster it before stepping onto the field, court, ice, or stage? Practice using the tools necessary to get your mind in the game. And when you’re done, practice some more. Doing so daily (not just “when it matters”) will help make these skills second nature.

2. Equalize the stakes so that practice mimics performance (easier said than done). It makes sense that the further into the season you are, the greater the stakes, the higher the pressure. It’s like the more success we see, the more we expect ourselves to continue to be successful.

Here’s the catch-22 – be great and excel, but don’t let the pressure of being great and excelling lead to your downfall. Instead, learn to develop pre-performance routines* that establish familiarity and signal, “it’s go time.” Bring your mental game to the warm-up and give it the attention likely already given to your physical warm-up.

3. Focus on controlling the controllables. Outcomes are out of our hands. At the beginning of the games, Red Gerard became the youngest USA gold-medalist since 1928 and the first gold medal for USA at the PyeongChang Olympics. If you were watching the snowboard slopestyle competition, you saw that his first run wasn’t what won him gold. Neither was his second. Red knew he had three chances. And after runs one and two, he needed to regain focus and get his head in the game. By focusing on the controllables – body positioning, speed, technical preparedness – Red was able to bring what he had practiced, time and time again, to center stage. Sure…there were plenty of uncontrollables, the most notable of which was the weather. But Red was able to trust in his training and harness the mental toughness essential to his success.

This is the moment you’ve been training for. This is your time…time to do your job. Take stock of your mental game and make sure it’s up to par with your physical game. Know that you’ve done everything you can to be ready – both mentally and physically – when all eyes are on you.

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