Does your athletic performance change depending on the record or ranking of your opponent?
Do you prepare or train differently when you are the underdog as opposed to being the one favored to win?
Many athletes or athletic teams prepare and play to the level of their competition.
The problem with inconsistent preparation is that it leads to inconsistent performance.
When you take an opponent for granted, you are claiming victory before the competition even begins. You see lowered-ranked opponents as easy victories.
Instead of preparing for competitions with equal importance, you tend to ease into some competitions and give your opponents a significant mental edge.
While your opponents start the competition in attack mode, you are overconfident. You allow your opponents to take advantage of your lack of preparation.
You may think you can turn up the intensity at any time, but often it’s too late, and you suffer an upset loss.
However, if you approach each competition equally, you will train, prepare, and approach every opponent as a competitive challenge.
Instead of focusing on who you compete against, you will focus on how you prepare. You will evaluate performance according to your level of improvement, not merely wins and loses.
For example, the Philadelphia Eagles won 14 games during the 2022-23 NFL season and earned the right to compete in the Super Bowl.
Despite the team’s success during the previous year, they refuse to see themselves as favorites for the upcoming season. Eagles’ linebacker Nakobe Dean stated the team’s mindset for the season is to see themselves as the hunter, not the hunted.
“We’ve got a lot of underdogs on the team, a lot of people who play with a lot of chips on their shoulders, so we’ll never sit back and act like we’re the one with the targets on our backs. We don’t look at it like we’ve got the target on our back. We look at it like we’re the ones out there hunting,” said Dean.
Being on the hunt is a proactive approach to competition. In other words, you prepare to be your best for every competition, regardless of your opponent.
This approach to competition helps you maintain high, stable confidence because you have prepared to the best of your ability.
You are hungry for success no matter what happened yesterday, so you are willing to put in the time, effort, and focus to lift your game higher every day.
Success starts with preparation. When mentally, physically, technically, and emotionally prepared, you enter the competition with a significant edge over your opponents.
Paying attention to details takes teams from good to great and inconsistent athletes to peak performers.
The goal of competing against a lower-ranked opponent is not to prevent an emotional letdown.
Be sure you are focused, ready to complete, confident, and in a mindset that helps you play athletically.
When you view each competition as an opportunity to explore your potential, you will commit to the necessary preparation to raise your game.
Related Sports Psychology Articles
- The Mindset to Perform at a Higher Level
- Having Fun While Performing at Your Best
- The Importance of Mental Toughness
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