Staying Confident After A Slow Start
Every athlete at some point feels they don’t have “it” today in a competition.
You know the feeling, from the onset of a game or meet, you have difficulty getting psyched to compete. You start off slow or with mistakes and can’t seem to get into the flow of the game.
You feel your game is off and you are not exactly sure why. This experience probably sounds familiar…
Think of a time when you just didn’t have “it.” You probably realized quickly from the onset of the competition that your game was off.
How did you respond?
Did your mind run wild with negativity? Did you become angry or frustrated? Did you conclude, “This is not my day,” and resign yourself to just a bad day?
Many athletes who conclude, “I don’t have it,” take the ‘I’ out of ‘fight’ and mentally give up. The thought process is, “Since I don’t have it, there is nothing I can do about it, so why even try.”
When you start to think this way during competition, your self-fulfilling prophecy will turn into a poor performance.
Not all athletes respond in this negative manner…
Mentally tough athletes keep fighting even though they know that their performance will not be one of their top performances.
Being “off your game” does not cause mentally tough athletes to stop fighting.
On the contrary, when mentally tough athletes feel they don’t have it, they fight harder, dig deeper and compete tougher.
At this year’s Wimbledon, world No. 59 tennis player Bernard Tomic demonstrated the need for an athlete to be mentally tough when they have difficulty finding their game early in a competition.
After a lackluster first-round loss, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, to 27th seed Mischa Zverev, Tomic first talked about not being able to get into the flow of the game.
TOMIC: “To me, this is one of the biggest tournaments in the world that I have done really well in my career and, yeah, I just couldn’t find anything.”
It is Tomic’s follow-up statement that highlights how a lack of mental toughness can affect the level of fight in athletes…
TOMIC: “I wasn’t mentally and physically there, with my mental state to perform and I don’t know why. But I felt a little bit bored out there to be completely honest with you. You know, I tried at the end and [Zverev] managed to win that set 6-3 or 6-4, but it was too late.”
There will always be ups and downs throughout a competition. If you can’t fight through the rough patches, you’ll be knocked out of the game at the first sign of adversity.
So when you don’t have it physically, that is the precise time when you need to pick it up mentally.
Mental Toughness Tip For Grinding it Out After a Poor Start:
Keeping the fight alive is your most valuable weapon when things aren’t clicking.
The ability to grind out your game for the rest of the competition is a sign that you can get the job done without your A-game.
Look for ways to change the momentum to get back into the competition. Maybe a good break, a positive call from an official, or a good play can turn it around for you.
Embrace the fact that you will struggle at times and be prepared mentally to grind it out–then you will always have a fighting chance.
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