23 All - 2015
Lose Yourself... A song by the musical artist Eminem created during the movie "8 Mile" describes it well. That feeling... In volleyball we sometimes call it the nerves at 23 all, the deuce game. I am sure that it's the same in tennis during a deuce game, basketball during a tie game, and really any competitive sport we can name. When the end of that game or match comes and the score is tied, humans naturally feel differently.
I am asked frequently, "How do you cope with close game situations?" My initial response is that first, it is important to know that being nervous is a natural feeling in sports. It is not an emotion that is lost upon even the best players to ever play the game. Secondly, my response is that I cope with close games more easily than the average athlete because I have seen it before. Although it could be this too, I am not referring to having competed in a similar situation. What I am addressing is seeing it happen before it happens.
Big ups to Andrea Becker for introducing me to the concepts way back when I was an undergrad. Being able to see things before they happen is not a trait of a psychic, per-say. Like becoming successful at anything, it takes practice. Being able to close your eyes and see the moments that change matches is something that can be done far before the big lights ever get turned on. It matters not whether your big lights are the Olympic playoffs, an NCAA championship, a club tournament finals, or an eight year old, first tournament debut. This is one size fits all.
Visualization is what I and some sports psychologists like to title it. I've heard it referred to as other things like imagery. Not to be mistaken with meditation. Most of us have a level of understanding in muscle memory, regardless of the capacity. The brain is a muscle... do the opposite of having it sit on the couch and intake potato chips. Challenge yourself and see if you can make yourself just comfortable enough with the uncomfortable feeling of shutting your eyes and envisioning events that are not physically present. It could change your life, or at least the way you view "big moments".
The importance of breath cannot be overstated. Being able to keep track of your own single breath is one of the most difficult practices that I have ever engaged in. There is little time for distraction, there is little time for breathers (no pun intended), and it is easy to cheat considering that you are your own police. It isn't hard to get started. Baby steps are important though. If we are to rush into a process that is important to us, we often fall short of the red ribbon. When you become interested in being a better closer, a better teacher, a better manager, a better facilitator, a better business owner, a better you... give it a shot.
If you have questions, comments, concerns: below is the spot.
Chris P Austin