The Psychology winning: Beating the Success to Slump Cycle
The glory of it all: the joy of excelling in sports and competition.
You are play whatever sport it is that you play. You have been working hard, training your focus, and individual skill and technique.
Your practice routines are focused and challenging, mimicking game type situations and stresses.
You enter competition and everything just flows. You are, as the saying goes, out of your head.
Whether you win or lose people take note of and comment on your exemplary form.
"Best you've been" they say and "now you are at the next level"
It's a great feeling and no doubt you have had a top level performance. This should be the start of a steady upward climb, but it isn't always, is it?
Maybe it is the nagging doubt about your abilities "I can't be THAT good all the time" or maybe you find such a grove that your sport becomes easy for you? Your effortless execution leads to lazy habits and lapses in concentration.
Maybe you start to practice what you are good at rather than what you need work on, or what keeps you sharp in game situations.
Yet you enter into your next competition with high standards and high expectations of what the outcome will be.
This is where your lazy habits and loss of focus starts to catch up with you.
Had you kept your expectations reasonable, you could simply re-focus, and get back in the moment and the flow of the game or match, but instead you see your dreams up leaping up the statistics or standings taking a big hit, and you do the worst possible thing in sport. You try harder.
This isn't 'go hard' this isn't "leave it all out there" No this is something much more insidious and incredibly damaging to your performance. You are fighting against yourself.
Technique that was fluid and seemed ingrained into you, suddenly becomes lost. Your hands become numb and the whole experience becomes stiff and alien.
Then to top it all off, you think to yourself "but why? I was playing fantastic just days ago!"
It doesn't seem fair, and truly, maybe it isn't, but this only compounds your issues and frustrations.
Getting back on track from your slump and stopping the next one.
Having an off period as a competitor is tough at the best of times. When it comes right after a period of peak performance it is especially discouraging.
This going from great highs to great lows in performance might also seem to form a cycle that can be demoralizing. Even if you get through a down period and bring your game back up again, not knowing if and when the next slump will begin can eat at your confidence.
is there anything to do other than admitting that you are the most inconsistent and wishy washy competitor ever?
Yes of course there is.
Here are five important steps you can take
- You can control effort and focus but not outcome. Leave your expectations at the door and get out of the head space of comparing to earlier versions of yourself or what you think you should do.
- Keep your practice routines fresh but also make sure they match in match/game conditions.
- Focus on the positives and use the negative parts of your performances to show you what you might need to work on in practice.
- Relax and don't worry about the timeline you take to get back on track. Trying to turn around a slump in the very next match is just asking to get inside your own head and you want you mind in an act/react mindset rather than a think/reflect mindset.
- Have fun. I am sorry, I know this can be the most frustrating advice to hear when you are struggling, but it is the truest. Have fun, stay loose, trust your training and let the game come to you.
In the end, just remember that there will be peaks and valleys and plateaus. You can't control, at least not fully, when they happen, but what you can control is maintaining good practice and mental habits.
Stay positive, and believe in yourself, even when you aren't getting the results you are hoping for. Build yourself up and never tear yourself down.