March 2, 2012 Leave a comment
I’ve been fortunate enough in my rather short number of years to play in quite a few number of finals, mostly through my tennis. Naturally I’ve got a lot more runner-up trophies than winners, and by losing quite a few of them I’ve learned something I think is important. A couple of weeks back I played in a tennis finals and I’ve no doubt this change in my approach to playing had an effect in winning this one.
Now I don’t usually feel the need to preface a lot of my posts because I like to think my readers are smart enough to know that just because I propose one idea doesn’t immediately mean I reject an alternative, but in this instance I want to make an exception. This is a little bit of sports psychology, thrown in with some logical thinking and it works for me. I don’t promise it will work for anyone else (although I hope it might) and if alternative patterns of thinking work better for you then use them. This is sport and a bit of fun after all. No method should be taken as Gospel.
There’s a phrase commonly given before one walks into a finals match. “It’s just another game”. The thinking behind this advice is to try to calm the player down, remind them it’s just a game and that doing their best is all anyone can ask for. It’s hardly bad advice. And in the grand scheme of things its accurate advice too. It really is just another game. Technically there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to play the exact same game as you did yesterday or last week. But as anyone who has played in a finals knows, these kinds of matches take a lot more out of us and it’s generally a mental drain more so than a physical one.
The problem I’ve personally found with embodying this advice is when things get tight (and in a finals match, that’s the whole match!) and you start missing shots you normally wouldn’t you have nowhere to turn. Because you’ve taken the above advice to heart you really have no excuse. If it’s just another game then there’s no good reason you should have missed that sitter. But this is the reality of our situation; it’s not just another match.
Certainly in the grand scheme of things it is just another match, but our limited human mind doesn’t comprehend that. Right here, right now this is really important to you. It’s a defining moment in your sports life and at the end of it, you really want to be walking away with the bigger trophy.
And that is the real reason you missed that last shot. You’re seriously nervous! And honestly, you should be. Sure the result of this match probably isn’t going to change history. In all likelihood no one will ever know and anyone who does will have moved on in a week.
But here’s the thing. It’s important to you. And it should be. You’ve probably just spent the last few weeks, or possibly even years in training to get to this point. Obviously if you’ve dedicated this much time to such an event it must be important to you.
So here’s my advice. Treat it as if it’s important to you. Acknowledge this is a big deal, that you want it really badly, and that as a result you’re going to be nervous and miss a few easy shots. That way when the inevitable happens and you do miss an easy shot you’re not stuck wondering what happened. You know what happened and now you can take steps to correct that. The problem is that by playing the match in a state of denial you can’t acknowledge why you make mistakes and even worse set yourself up to not take advantage of the situation.
That nervous energy that was bouncing around inside you, giving you butterflies, use it! Don’t try to suppress it by denying the importance of the occasion. Use what nature gave you and burn that extra adrenaline!
And at the end of the day when all is said and done, remember, it really is just another match.
-Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.