Most teams have experienced playing in hostile environments, where fans can be aggressive, calls unfavourable and opponents trying to get into your head. There is one intention when playing against these rival teams and it is to derail you, to rattle you and disrupt your level of play. If they did not see you as a threat, there would be no need for them to seek an edge through intimidation.
Rivalry is an essential element of sport. When challenged, teams can rise up and play beyond what they thought were possible. Performing strong in tough environments demands physical and mental preparation. With the right headspace teams can maintain their focus, stick to their game plan and rise up in the face of challenge.
Tips for overcoming pressure and playing in hostile environments:
1. Present Focus: it is critical for high performing athletes to maintain present focus. Be in the present moment, right here, right now. In this mindset, fear and stress dissolve. Practice being in the present moment with breath work, meditation and mindfulness. Know that you are not your thoughts nor the voice in your head. When you are in the present moment, the noise from the crowds and biased referring dissolves.
2. Quality of Focus: Consider what you chose to focus on affects your experience and state of mind. We are in complete control of our mindset and perspective. Rather than focusing on the noise or the yelling of the crowds, chose to focus on that which gives you power and allows you to play your best game. Chose rather to focus on your process or your love of the game or any aspect of the sport that puts you in a positive frame of mind.
3. Visualization: Mentally rehearse the upcoming game. Imagine the tough environment, hear the loud noises, see yourself sticking to your game plan and being successful. By mentally rehearsing beforehand you will walk onto the field as a confident athlete who is focused and prepared.
4. Duplicate Scenarios: Talk about what you will be facing. If it is loud noise, then create this in training so adaptation occurs. Practicing in adverse situations will condition the athlete’s mind.
Reframe Crowd Noise: Embrace it. Use it as a motivator and interpret it as they are cheering for you. Reframe the noise in a way that empowers you.
Be mindful of your thoughts and how they impact your performance. Look for opportunities to reframe, be positive and have a perspective that makes you a stronger athlete. As Winston Churchill said, “Mind management is the essence of life.”
Creating Peak Performances
"If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it." Tonny Lasorda