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Facing End-of-the-Year Pressure?  You Need a Plan!


Mindset Made Simple Tip #197 – Watch or listen HERE and subscribe!


If you coach a spring sport or are a business leader who ends your fiscal year at the end of June (maybe that’s only a higher-ed thing, but read on anyway 😊), it’s pressure time.


No matter if you are vying for the top spot, fighting to get into the championship flight or marching to the end without a chance to win it all, the end of the season raises emotion – excitement, frustration and everything in between.


Pressure.  Inherent in anything we do we care about, there is pressure. 


More than half of my spring teams are in a place where they could find themselves in the NCAA or NAIA championship.  This is fun!


But, oh, the pressure. 


We all handle pressure in different ways.  Some of us talk faster.  According to a situation I recall at the NCAA Tournament at Michigan when one of my athletes asked if I was nervous after I pulled the team in for some instruction and a pep talk and she asked, “Are you nervous, Coach?”, I’d say that is me!


Some of us feel tired or sluggish under pressure.  Whether that is from disrupted sleep – also like me sitting up in the hotel lobby at 3 am the night before we were playing in the championship game (looks like I handle pressure well, eh?).  Or from our body’s natural fight, flight or freeze, this is a normal response to stress/pressure.


Being all jacked up or feeling like you need a nap are not exactly ingredients for peak performance.  So how can we prep for the pressure we are inevitably going to face?

First, we need to ACKNOWLEDGE it. 


Pressure makes us tight.  Tight muscles and thoughts inhibit our performance.  We can pretend everything is the same.  BUT IT’S NOT. 


As author Dr. Mitchell Green says in Courage over Confidence: Managing Mind Chatter and Winning the Mental Game, there is no way to make a game day, especially a championship game day, feel just like practice.  Yes, it’s the same.  The field is the same. The ball is the same, and the distances are the same, but we all know a foul shot at the beginning of the game can feel much different than a foul shot at the end with the score close and seconds left to go. 


Green goes on to say that “it is unrealistic to think we will feel the same in both instances.”

It is what it is.  No two opportunities in a game or a day are the same. Everything we face is different in one way or another…and we need to label it as such!


We are taught from a young age, both boys and girls, to smother our emotions, especially in big moments.  That is like holding a beach ball underwater.  It’s fine when you have both hands on it, but let go with even one hand for a split second, and VOOSH out of the water it shoots.


And since we need at least one hand to perform, this method isn't feasible.


Acknowledging our emotions or feelings of pressure DOES NOT MEAN we allow them to dictate our behavior.  We are just putting a little light on the subject – doing a brief interrogation – and questioning the bad guy…who really isn’t a bad guy if we use him the right way (think – our body is alerting us to something important that needs our attention).


We can thank our pressure feelings for gathering our attention and even move into the great Billy Jean King’s mindset of “pressure is a privilege. It only comes to those who earn it.”  She goes on to say “It's how we look at something whether we feel a lot of pressure or not. I like pressure. It helps me realize it's an opportunity.”


To use it to our advantage, we must put a little light on it – acknowledge it – and decide what to do with it!


Acknowledging feelings of stress, elevated arousal or anxiousness in pressure situations is important but it may be more important to acknowledge that we may feel different before the big moment or big day arrives.


We need a contingency plan.  When we get there, what will we do when we get pulled away from our ideal mindset and physical state?  How will we feel when put in that situation we have been imagining?  What situations may be more pressure-filled than others?  What might our distractors include?  What will we do when they present themselves?  What are we making bigger than we need to and where do we need to pull back to see the big picture?  What are we worried about and where do we need to say “Everything won’t be perfect” so we are ready to adjust?


It's all about our implementation intentions.  I am going to implement THIS when THAT happens intentionally.  To intentionally do anything, we must first make a plan. 


“If we get a bad official, I will accept that both teams are dealing with the same thing and figure out ways to use that zone or approach to my advantage.” If he is calling pitches in the other batters' box it’s time for our pitcher to use that, too!


“If I hear my dad after a mistake, I will thank him for trying to help (even if it isn’t really helping), use my refocus tool and tell myself what I plan to do next out loud.”


These situations could be endless, but pulling out the things we know fire up our less-than-helpful emotions can give us a sense of control AND serve as an instant thought shift to something much more productive than letting the left side of our brain, where rumination runs ramped run the show.  It gives us a chance to make a mindset shirt and start talking about what we want as opposed to what we are trying to avoid!


We are setting up our responses.  Since we don’t control our thoughts, sometimes is better to have a predetermined place to go so we end up where we want to be!


If we don’t face the fact that we feel different, we give up the opportunity to make a change to perform at our best.  It’s easy to pretend all is well.  In fact, we think that is what we are supposed to be…that is mental toughness. 


NOT SO.  Mental toughness is figuring out how to best manage what’s in front of us and to do that we MUST acknowledge how we feel.  Our feelings aren’t facts, but they do give us a chance to do a quick investigation on what we need to do to get into our peak performance mode. 


Pressure is a privilege.  You are here for a reason.  You care, so you will feel different.  Now decide what makes you feel different and what makes you perform at your best and have a plan to get there!


Wishing you all a strong push to the end!  Manage the pressure by making a plan and managing the moments!


Julie


P.S. it's time to start planning for the fall. Let's set up an intentional plan to start the year off right with a high-performance mindset! Shoot me a text at 234-206-0946 or an email at juliej@ssbperformance.com and get scheduled today!


Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance

juliej@ssbperformance.com • 234-206-0946 

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