March Madness Wisdom: Scoring Under Pressure
Athletes performing in some of the biggest sports competitions such as the Olympics, Super Bowl or even March Madness must learn to pivot from the most euphoric highs and gut-wrenching lows. Here are a few tips for keeping cool amid intense pressure and scoring those buzzer-beating baskets.
1. Stay loose. The brighter the spotlight, the greater the tendency for us to tighten up. The more we want something, the greater we fear not accomplishing it. And while some level of fear is healthy, too much can cause our mind and body to tighten up. In sports it is called “dead man walking.” It’s a term used when a player losses confidence and his fear of getting cut affects his or her ability to play ball. It has turned great players into ones that look like they don’t belong. Disconnect from the fear of failure and be completely accepting whatever result may come.
2. Keep a short memory. Entrepreneurs and athletes need have to have a short memory. We all experience victories and defeats but can’t allow the good days to go to our head or the bad days to take over our hearts. What you did in the past is less important than what you are about to do in the future. Any time you have a self-defeating or negative thought that is hard to get rid of, visualize a fast-moving river flowing right through your head carrying the thought away. Remember that each day is a new opportunity, a new beginning and another chance to learn, even if you fell flat on your face yesterday.
3. Find leaders but watch out for victims. Victims can destroy the chemistry of an entire team; a victim is someone who places blame and is always looking at others for an excuse for his orher own failure. In business, such people blame management, the product or co-workers for their failures. In athletics, they blame coaches, game plans and the front office. Identify victims in your life and remove them as quickly as possible, regardless of their competency or skill set.
Conversely, leaders take charge. They don’t need too much direction and when they encounter a challenge or barrier they navigate it -- individually or with others.
4. Trust the experts. As entrepreneurs, we like to think we can do everything, but where it makes sense, bring in experts. For example, I’m no IT expert, so my company partners with a technology company that helps us manage our servers, connectivity and laptops.
We partner with a bank to help ensure that we have the right tools to manage our working capital. It’s similar in sports where you should rely upon and trust your coaches, trainers and teammates to all do their jobs. It’s all about having the best team, not the best individual.
5. Suppress your ego. Life is too short to always feel the need to be right. Let go of the need to win and you will no longer want to “beat” competitors for selfish or egotistical reasons. Concentrate only on the things that are in your direct control, while eliminating elements that are out of your control.
There are wins and losses ahead for all of us. Remain even-keeled along the way and don’t allow yourself to get too high from your victories nor too low in your defeats. This will help you navigate life’s ebbs and flows with a greater sense of consistency and success.
Jeremy Bloom is the only athlete ever to ski in the Olympics and play in the NFL. He is a co-founder and CEO of Integrate, a marketing software and media services provider. He is a member of the United States Skiing Hall of Fame, a two-time Olympian and 11-time World Cup gold medalist, as well as a former football player for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is the author of Fueled by Failure: Using Detours and Defeats to Power Progress (Entrepreneur Press, 2015), now available on Amazon.com.