Some common pre-game mistakes (made by friends, family, and even coaches)
When I attend a sporting event, be it a minor league game or a professional competition (and all levels in between), I see many people undermining the preparation of their athletes. I don’t mean members of the opposing team, but friends, family, and well-meaning coaches.
Just because “everyone” does something, or the way they did it when you played, doesn’t mean it was ever effective. Many things that were commonly practiced are considered ridiculous years later. For more than 3,000 years, people believed that leeches cured most diseases. Less than 50 years ago, all hostesses were fired on their 32nd birthday.
Probably the most common thing I hear is that people wish athletes “Good Luck” before the start of the event. This is diametrically opposed to the proper mindset an athlete needs to perform at a high level. When you tell them to trust luck, you are diminishing all the work they have done to prepare for the competition. If all you need is luck, why bother to practice and develop your skills?
An athlete must learn to focus on the things that are under their control and luck is not one of those things. I don’t believe in luck as people traditionally see it. My definition of luck is: “What happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Since you cannot control when the opportunity will present itself, it is best to focus on your preparation, this way when an opportunity presents itself you can take advantage of it. I have come across many athletes who have told me that they are unlucky. What I found was that they had opportunities but hadn’t done the work necessary to take advantage of those opportunities when they came.
The second most common thing I hear is people proudly saying, “Do your best.” This phrase can be even more damaging, since no one hears those words and thinks, “I’m going to go out and give everything I have today.” The way the brain processes that phrase is not a reason to give it your all, but rather an excuse to perform poorly. It diverts your focus from performing well and makes you look like you’re trying. They tell themselves that there is no way anyone will know if I gave it my all, so if things go wrong, I can always tell them “I did my best.”
What I tell my friends and family to tell their kids or friends before a competition is “have fun.” This does three things of value: 1) Relieves pressure on the athlete. 2) It takes away the focus of the result; Taking your focus off the outcome allows you to take your mind out of the equation so your body can perform at the level of preparation that you have put in. 3) When you focus on having fun, you likely enjoy what you are doing and when you enjoy what you are doing, you usually perform better.
“There is no fear when you are having fun.” – Will Thomas
“When we go out, we have fun, but we get down to business, and I think we’re at our best when we have fun. Having fun is the key.” – Ezekiel Elliott
You can follow Sam on Twitter: @SuperTaoInc