It’s that time of year when fall sport athletes are focusing on end-of-the-season results as we discuss the 4 postseason pitfalls to avoid. For some, it’s a welcomed surprise; for others, it’s the sole purpose of hard work throughout the season.
Postseason performance matters, and it’s easy to get caught up in playoff pitfalls. Here’s a look at those pitfalls and how to overcome them.
The 4 Postseason Pitfalls To Avoid:
1. Future/outcome focus
Show me the start of any competition and I’ll show you a group of people shaking with nerves, overthinking about what’s about to happen and focusing on the result they want.
Here’s the problem. When we focus in the future (on some thing that hasn’t happened yet) we trigger the fight-or-flight response. Once triggered, tension increases, thinking drifts into the future with worry and we quickly destroy our confidence.
Stay present and focus on your performance. When you feel stress increasing (shaking, butterflies, overthinking), breathe. It sounds simple, but there’s no better way it quickly gets present.
The deep, slow breath requires you to be present and aware you’re triggered, and then focusing on your breath forces you to mentally slow down and reduces your stress response. For best results, practice your breath daily leading up to playoffs.
2. Competing with competitors
Have you found yourself obsessed with your competitors, their advantages, their strengths, and the reasons they might beat you? How did that impact your confidence and avoiding postseason pitfalls? More than likely, it triggered fear and the stress response described in #1.
There is a time and place to study your competition and strategically plan to compete against them. However, when it’s time to go, you must focus on your performance, effort and technique. You are in control of your effort, thoughts and execution.
Focusing on controllables helps build confidence, which results in stronger performance.
3. Do more, expect more
One of the most common pitfalls of postseason performance is the intention to do more, compete harder and faster, expect more out of yourself than ever before. This is almost guaranteed to backfire. Why?
This intention brings with it overwhelming pressure, emotion and the fight-or -flight response gets triggered.
When taking a moment to imagine one of your best performances to avoid postseason pitfalls, were you under crippling pressure and feeling desperate for perfection? Or, were you focused, mentally calm, feeling light, strong and fast?
Research (both scientific and anecdotal) tells us best performances reflect the latter. Continue to do what has worked throughout the season and stick with it. The environment and energy of the competition will change; your challenge is to stay the same.
4. Get fired up
What does it mean to get fired up? It means getting emotional, thinking about winning and getting tense and breathing shallow.
It results in us feeling overwhelmed and focused on our thoughts.
Try this for a moment. Jump up and down, get your emotions going, think about the reasons you deserve to win, and breathe hard and fast.
While maintaining this, focus your eyes in one place and imagine yourself executing perfectly.
Can you do it? Or did you feel overstimulated and struggle to switch focus to execution? Now, if you can’t do it here, with no pressure or expectations, how do you expect to do it during a competition?
Now, take a moment to breathe, relax and see the same vision with ideal execution. Can you connect with the vision now? It may not be perfect, but you drastically increased your chances of performing well, even if it’s just in your head. If you want to work in real life, you can help yourself by getting quality reps in your head and body first.
Lastly, overcoming these pitfalls takes dedicated practice. With postseason upon us, take small steps to incorporate small changes to make your performance more controllable.
4 Mental Preparation Tips:
1. Breathe — Early and often, any time you feel nervous, butterflies or find yourself in the future.
2. Focus on controllables — Your effort, attitude and keeping your thoughts simple and focused on your performance.
3. Visualize — Imagine your best performance (or bits of it) over and over to build confidence and consistency.
4. Be ready — Strive to stay mentally calm and physically ready. Breathe, focus, visualize.
I wish you an excellent postseason experience. Stay mentally strong!