Often when I compete, I find that when I’m under pressure I stop thinking. I don’t remember my goals, my game plan or what exactly I should be doing. Instead I get flooded with bad feelings like “Not again, I know I am going to lose” or “I keep making the same mistake – I’ll never get it.” Right now it’s so bad that I’ve lost my confidence and don’t enjoy competing. What should I do?
What you are experiencing is very common for both professional and non-professional athletes. In Positive Psychology we call it a negative loop that you can’t get out of.
If I were to say to you, “Don’t think of a pink elephant,” what would you immediately see in your mind? Right – a pink elephant. Let’s say you are playing tennis and you say to yourself, “I hope I don’t double fault.” What do you immediately see in your mind? Right – the double fault. This applies to shooting a free throw or kicking a penalty kick or the many other pressure situations you encounter in sport.
So now you have a picture in your mind of the double fault and this creates an emotional response from you. You start feeling insecure, inadequate and like a loser. Your initial negative thought created a picture in your mind which created negative emotions.
Thoughts Pictures Emotions
So how do you get out of this loop? Your first thought must be positive: “I am going to serve my favorite serve to his backhand.” You then see this great serve to the backhand in your mind. This creates positive emotions of confidence, trust and the feeling you can do it. By thinking positive you can break out of the negative loop you are in.