I am one of the best players on my team in practice but when it comes to “money” time, I just don’t perform well. This happens to me over and over again and I feel my coach is losing faith in me. Actually I’m losing faith in myself. When the pressure is on, I freeze – my legs are heavy, my mind is empty and I don’t succeed to get out of it. Any thoughts?
I think this issue is the most common to all professional athletes at some point in their career. Let’s analyze for a moment why you play so well in practice. My guess is that you aren’t under pressure because you don’t really care about the result and it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. Nothing will happen. In “money” time you care a lot, there are consequences to your mistakes and you become paralyzed with fear.
One way of dealing with this is to lower the pressure in “money” time. Remember most of the pressure you are feeling is created by you: your expectations, your not wanting to disappoint others, your fear of embarrassing yourself, your fear of losing…
If your expectations are to win, you must keep in mind that winning is not totally in your control as there are many other factors that come into play. It could be that your opponent is better than you, or that you are coming off an injury or that the refereeing is bad or that the other team is luckier. Your personal goal should be to focus on what’s in your control – your effort, your aggressiveness, your creativity, your strategy.
Once you focus on your personal goal – one that you control, the pressure lessens and you will perform much better.