Along with the rest of the world, I can’t wait to watch the Winter Olympics every four years. Most of us zero in on the wins and losses, and at the end of the day, that is what we remember. However, let me try to add a new element to your viewing enjoyment this Winter Olympics… rather than only watching who excels, why not find out why?
Individual athletes often make or break their careers based on how they perform in “big games.” Some athletes surprise us with their calm, consistent play, while others, even on the same team, underperform. I would like to present two ideas for you to be mindful of, as you watch, with an emphasis, naturally, on hockey. I encourage you to observe how they factor into the performance of each participating athlete.
The first area is focus. Mature athletes keep their focus on the process and not the outcome. People have a tendency to panic when they sense that their desired outcome is slipping away from them. Mid-way through the third period in a must win game, when a team is down 3 to 1, players often allow panic to precipitate taking a bad penalty. Players who tighten up (because they are worried about losing) are not able to get their very best game on the ice, and instead, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, they get-what-they-worried-about. Players who excel in big games, however, stay in the moment and focus on the process, regardless of the end outcome.
The second area I would like you to watch for is the emotional state of the athletes. Players can become emotionally tense under adverse circumstances, and erupt at a referee’s bad call or an opponent’s taunting. High emotional states can work both for and against us, especially when the stakes are high. Undisciplined actions are fueled by uncontrolled emotions, and consequently, big games are often won or lost on the emotional reactions of the players. During the 2014 Winter Olympics, look at the extent to which emotions play a part in who stood on the podium and who did not.
Why do focus and emotion play such a large part in the success of athletes? In a word, they both help generate either positive or negative momentum. If feedback is the breakfast of champions, then momentum is the champagne in the cup of success!
As you observe the focus and emotions of your country’s athletes, and assess how many times the momentum shifts in the big games, increase your enjoyment by asking yourself…why is this happening?