When I attend a sporting event, whether it’s a little league game or a professional contest (and all levels in between), I see many people undercutting their athlete’s preparation. I’m not talking about members of the opposing team, but rather well-meaning friends, family, and coaches.
Just because “everyone” does something or it is the way they did it when you played, does not mean it was ever effective. Many things that were commonly practiced are deemed to have been ridiculous years later. For over 3000-years people believed that leeches cured most diseases. Less than 50-years ago all stewardesses were fired on their 32nd birthday.
Probably the most common thing I hear is people wishing athletes “Good Luck” prior to the start of the event. This is diametrically opposed to the proper mindset an athlete needs to perform at a high level. When you tell them to rely on luck, you are diminishing all the work they have put in to get ready for their competition. If all you need is luck, why bother practicing and developing your skills?
An athlete must learn to focus on the things that are within their control and luck is not one of those things. I do not believe in luck in the traditional way people see it. My definition of luck is: ‘What happens when preparation meets opportunity.’
Since you cannot control when the opportunity is going to present itself, it is best to focus on your preparation, this way when an opportunity does come along you are able to take advantage of it. I have met with many athletes who have told me that they are unlucky. What I found was that they had opportunities but they had not done the necessary work to take advantage of those opportunities when they came.
The second most common thing I hear is people proudly saying, “Do Your Best.” This phrase may even be more harmful, as no person hears those words and thinks: “I am going to go out there and give everything I’ve got today.” The way the brain processes that phrase is not as a reason to give it their all, but rather as an excuse to underperform. It turns their focus away from performing well and onto appearing to give effort. They tell themselves that there is no way anyone will know if I gave it my all so if things go south I can always tell them “I Did My Best.”
What I tell my friends and family to say to their child or friends before a competition is, “have fun.” This does three things of value: 1) It relieves pressure on the athlete. 2) It takes their focus away from the result; Removing their focus from the result allows them to take their mind out of the equation so that their body can perform up to the level of the preparation they have put in. 3) When you focus on fun you are likely to enjoy what you are doing and when you enjoy what you are doing you normally perform better.