The Competitive Edge – Dr. Goldberg Ed.D

Dr. Goldberg shares 2 articles in this Issue of BEN

#1. BIGGER THE GAME, THE MORE YOU NEED TO BE THE SAME

The darting season is now in full swing and before we know it league finals and tournaments minor & major will fill up our calendars. As we enter this critical time, sure as I’m sitting here pecking away at my little keyboard, coaches and athletes all over are going to make a predictable, yet costly mental mistake that will send their “A” game packing.

‘WHAT’S THIS BIG MISTAKE?’

It’s when you go into the bigger games and, in your mind, you have made them bigger than they are and much too important. You have put the emphasis on the importance of playing well today, that your goals and the outcome of your season depend upon it.

Making the big games TOO BIG in your head, will guarantee that you walk out onto that court or field tight as a drum. If you have cranked up your pregame nervousness with all of this nonsense about how well you need to play today, then you can bet your life you’ll play really badly!

Do yourself a favor. Keep your focus of concentration away from the outcome, from what’s at stake, away from “this is a tournament game and we need to win.” Focusing on the importance of the outcome and on how big the game is will get you so nervous that you end up trying TOO HARD. You will go into the performance pressing, trying to make things happen, instead of relaxing and letting the game come to you, to flow.

Remember, the secret to peak performance is staying loose and relaxed during pre-performance and through the performance. You can’t stay loose and relaxed if you’ve spent all of this time blowing the game’s importance up in your mind. The rules do NOT change for tournaments. The dartboard or the oche aren’t altered. The events are still the same. The techniques of the game remain the same. And, YOU need to stay the same!

‘TRYING TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN INSTEAD OF RELAXING AND LETTING THE GAME COME TO YOU’

That is, the bigger the game, the more you want to STAY THE SAME. Keep doing what you’ve been doing all season. Do NOT change things because “NOW IT COUNTS!”

That kind of mentality will tighten you up and steal your game from you. Instead, simply “stay within yourself.” Play your own game without trying to do something extraordinary.

Trying to do the extraordinary stuff will ensure that you perform as a mere shadow of your ability. Relax, have fun and enjoy the challenge and excitement.

#2. PRACTICE DOESN’T MAKE PERFECT, WHAT YOU PRACTICE DOES!

You’ve heard the cliche before: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. Fact is, this is only true if you’re practicing the right stuff.
There are so many athletes who invest a tremendous amount of time and energy into their training and then are left confused as to why all their practicing doesn’t pay off when they compete.

For some inexplicable reason, their great technique, timing, and execution does a disappearing act whenever the game is on the line.

What gives? Those athletes who really get the most out of their practice sessions do so because they are engaging in ‘PERFECT PRACTICE!’

What’s perfect practice?

It’s when you practice the things and circumstances that you are most likely going to need and have to deal with in your actual competitions. For example, if there is a likelihood of you having to compete with a lot of noise, crowded areas and distractions, perfect practice means that you go out of your way to regularly train in these conditions, especially those that you really hate! Practicing in the basement doesn’t train you for these conditions.

If there is a certain kind of opponent who really annoys you, whose style of play gives you fits, then find some practice partners just like them and consistently train against them!

Perfect practice best prepares you to easily transfer your hard work in daily practice to the pressure and intensity of competition because whenever you practice “perfect practice,” you are regularly working on mastering those things that tend to emotionally knock you off track when the chips are on the line.

For example, the darter who practices and only throws at triple 20’s isn’t helping themselves as much as they would if they spent as much time practicing their other triple numbers, singles and doubles, etc. By deliberately making some part of your practices closely resemble the emotional, physical and mental demands of competition, you will get more out of your training and therefore, improve faster.

If competing against cheaters makes you see red, find a cheater or two to occasionally train with. If you hate competing with music and distractions be sure to make those as “must train” conditions.

If you tend to collapse and mentally give up when you’re tired, make your training sessions include hard cardio work first, so that you then begin your practices already winded and tired.

If you tend to choke or fall apart under pressure, then have your coach regularly set up pressure-filled training sessions for you.

Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect! PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!

Need Help With Your Mental Game?

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  • Are you struggling with performance anxiety or a slump?
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