Do you (or your athletes) find it difficult to perform at a high level when playing against talented teams or athletes?
When faced with daunting odds, is it hard for you to grind it out and keep fighting?
Can you think of a competition when you felt the other athletes were stronger, better and more talented than you or your team?
Some athletes approach these competitions with trepidation and think, “We have never advanced in this tournament in the past. How can we possibly compete against these teams now?” Your fear of losing is through the roof and your mindset shift to trying not to lose too badly or embarrassing yourself. This defensive style of play only causes you to avoid making mistakes as you allow the opposition to dictate the flow of the competition. You make a mistake and your opponent capitalizes on your mistake and scores.
Part of bouncing back requires you to change your perception when playing tough competition. You want to reframe these competitions as challenges. Challenges aren’t meant to stop you but to help you raise your game to the next level. By changing your mindset, you become better equipped to battle and be competitive. And, who knows, maybe the opposing athlete or team makes some mistakes and places you in position to win the competition.
In the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. team won its group for the first time since 1930. In the round of 16, the U.S. was eliminated by Ghana, 2-1 and finished in 12th place according to FIFA’s ranking system. The following year, Jurgen Klinsmann was hired to coach the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) to help the team get over the hump and challenge for a World Cup title. Klinsmann has worked diligently to change the mindset of his team as they prepare for the 2014 World Cup.
How is it possible for the US team to succeed at the World Cup?
First, Klinsmann wants his team to view each game as a challenge instead of focusing on the difficulty of playing tough competition.
“It is one of the most difficult groups of the whole draw. It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger, but that is what the World Cup is all about. We are looking forward to the challenge and we don’t see ourselves as any kind of outsiders. If you want to get into the top 10 or 12 teams in the world you have to beat these guys,” he said.
Second, Klinsmann wants the U.S. team to focus on their game and dictate the flow of the game: “American nature is to take the game to our opponents. We don’t want to just react to them.”
Try these tips to raise your game to the next level against tough athletes or teams:
- View each competition as an opportunity to improve your performance and rise to the challenge. This keeps the focus on you and not your opponents.
- Use a game plan to dictate the flow of the game and play your style of game instead of waiting for the opposing team to bring the game to you.
- Avoid self-intimidation. Focus on your talents and abilities instead of getting caught up in the strengths of the opposition.
Your Mental Coach,
Dr. Patrick Cohn