Saturday, November 7, 2009

Learning from the World Champions: Staying Composed

I watched with awe the six games of the World Series. I was in awe of the players’ focus and composure during a long stretch of intense games. Not only did the Yankees and Phillies endure a long, hard, season, they endured six very exciting championship games. The ability of players like Alex Rodriquez, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Mariano Rivera to keep their composure during these key games displays the mark of true champions.

I often witness young softball or baseball players, especially in high stakes games, get upset or angry after they miss a play, strike-out, or there is a bad call. Championship games often cause young athletes to expect perfection. The pressure, a perfectionist’s attitude, and a player’s own high expectations can cause the players to play too tense and thus cause emotional upset when things aren’t going well.

The World Series proved a great testing ground for both the Yankees and the Phillies’ composure. The stakes are high, the want for the seasons’ hard work to pay off is great, and the duration of the intense games was drawn out. However,
when looking at the player’s faces while they were at bat, the same composed face appeared with each and every at bat. As Rodriquez was quoted as saying, “The goal was to come in and simplify things this year, and I've done that. I think it's a formula that worked this year, and it will work in the future. Winning is the only goal, and I've never experienced such an amazing feeling."

In baseball and in life, composure is an important skill. One the champion athletes have learned to master and one that we can bring to our own lives.
Just as ARod points out in the game of baseball, simplify things. In life we’re often faced with our own “world series”…having to stay composed while trying to reason with a two year old, staying composed before giving a speech, staying composed while going for an important interview or staying composed in a fast paced society. Simplifying allows us to stay focused, relaxed and in the moment.

Here are five ingredients to staying composed under pressure:

1. Keep it simple. Be aware of the pressure you put on yourself. Let go of perfection. Stay focused on what you need to do in the moment to do your best.
2. Prepare for each game/situation the same way each time. Routine preparation helps build confidence and allows us to stay focused. Again, keep it simple.
3. Don’t compare yourself or your team to the opponents. Size, numbers, nicer uniforms, etc. have nothing to do with how YOU perform. Stay focused on your preparation and your game.
4. Anticipate the challenges that you might face and have a plan to prepare yourself for them. Any game or situation will have challenges. Be prepared with a plan.
5. Butterflies and pregame jitters are normal. It’s your body’s way of saying you are ready. Take time before the game to gather the energy of the butterflies and guide them to fly in formation.

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