After watching the Jeremy Abbott saga at the Winter Olympics, I’m reminded again how athletes at every level often let their mental state affect performance.
Watching Abbott in the moments before his short program skate, you sensed his incredible nerves, saw the tension in his face, and I remarked to my wife that I thought he was going to blow it. Didn’t take long for him to fall apart right from the start, but what happened after the big fall? Abbott got up, dusted himself off and finished an otherwise flawless performance. This was clearly a choke and we’ve all done it. You let your brain get in the way of your capacity to produce. Abbot finished strong because he knew there would be no medal and the pressure was off. He relaxed.
What could he have done differently? I suspect he let the four-year build up of pre-Olympic preparation and aspirations create a level of expectations that were too high. He confused effort with results. If I were Abbott, and I can’t skate a lick, I would have told myself, “There are many excellent skaters in this competition. On any given day, anyone could win the gold. I’ll focus on giving my best effort and if I win, great; if not, I’ll heartily congratulate the champion.”
Athletes who relax, enjoy the moment, laugh at the nerves, and embrace these opportunities as nothing more than life’s great experiences, have a better chance for success.
See T.J. Oshie before and during the shootout in today’s USA 3-2 victory over Russia? He was smiling, enjoying the moment, embracing the challenge. I had confidence in him and he managed to perform at his capacity.
How can these lessons help us on the golf course? I’ve read all the books by Dr. Bob Rotella and there are many nuggets you can get from him or other sources on the web. Invest time in developing a good pre-shot routine, simulate game conditions during your practice, visualize the shot before you play, and don’t take a lot of time over the ball. They’re all good advice, but the best way I’ve found to not confuse effort with results is to remember two simple things. Try your hardest on every shot and remember to have fun.
Golf is a game and we are humans. Sometimes we play great and other times we blow it and that’s okay. What are your keys to perform your best?