I was reading this article by Jackie MacMullan on the ESPN site – on how elite athletes cope or learn to cope with high stress linked to split second (guaranteed) performance. What makes them falter (mostly overthinking that disconnects their instinctive muscle memory from the last at hand) and how they make a come back from defeat. The article is a must read to see how the top athletes develop regimes to tackle stress under pressure. And it should give Founders a lot of clarity about how to deal with stress in our own play fields.
Jackie MacMullan describes how Steph Curry focus on his rival Kyrie Irving made him lose the game in the game of June 2016 and now offering his learnings from failure as evidence that you can bounce back. “Elite athletes fail. What makes them elite is they learn and grow from it. Think Earvin “Magic” Johnson dribbling out the clock and missing key free throws in the 1984 Finals against the Celtics and being branded “Tragic Magic” — then returning the next season to lead the Lakers to the title over Boston, and thwarting the Celtics again in 1987 with a junior, junior hook that has become an enduring symbol of Johnson’s greatness.”
When body or mind is under pressure, many extreme sports enthusiasts will vouch that stress is a result and this is when the hypothalamus releases cortisol and adrenaline into your system.
In one of the interviews Kyrie Irving says “Pressure to me is just a word describing fear,…And when you go through the process of figuring life out, how important basketball is to you, and you release that fear and the circumstances and environment it exists in, you learn to embrace pressure.“
Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg in their book Peak Performance, “argue that stress can serve as a stimulus for growth and adaptation. They liken the process of harnessing stress to lifting weights to add muscle. There is exertion, fatigue, recovery, then added strength”. Expansion or capacity building is evidently preceded by stress on the system that allows to make room and develop capabilities.
Jackie MacMullan quote further data. “FOR THE 2012 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Justin Rao and Matt Goldman wrote a paper “Effort vs. Concentration: The Asymmetric Impact of Pressure on NBA Performance” . They used data from 1.3 million possessions to study two aspects of the game: offensive rebounding, an effort-based skill, and free throw shooting, which relies on mental tenacity and concentration.” What they found was that players performed worse in “clutch situations” due to “detrimental self-focus”. Overthinking – “disrupts the automatic ability to perform.“
The article quotes Kevin Durant in a clutch situation “My mind was racing,….’What happens if I miss? What happens if I make it? Will everyone love me?’ You weigh the pros and cons. Nothing felt right. All I could think of was if I missed. I knew those feelings, and I knew I would drown in them.”
“ELITE BASKETBALL PLAYERS aren’t immune to stress — they’ve just mastered how to channel it” writes Jackie. While they have access to the best medical, nutritional and wellness assistance, “the most valuable tool remains the inherent confidence that players know they have the skills to excel”.
Magic Johnson’s coach and Heat President Pat Riley is quoted by Jackie MacMullan saying ”Great players know it’s OK to fail,…they don’t succumb to the pressure, but sometimes they succumb to the narrative,….It’s what I call ‘peripheral opponents.’ If you allow yourself to succumb to that tremendous stress and anxiety, it’s going to get in your head.“
What do the stars fall back on when they are subjected to high performance pressures?
When NBA’s brightest new star, Giannis Antetokuonmpo “starts to feel jittery, he recalls his father’s soothing words, that there’s no need to be nervous about a game he has been playing his entire life” or rubs his wrists for comfort.
While on the bench, Steph Curry visualizes “what he hopes to accomplish when he returns to the floor. He has also found that deep breaths slow him — and the game — down considerably”.
Before the 2017 finals Kevin Durant blocked out stress by “turning off his phone, placing the Do Not Disturb sign on his door, disengaging from most people outside the team and focusing on a singular goal: winning in spite of himself.”
“The last thing I want when I play,” Durant says, “is to be in my own way.”
Are you in your own way?
Link to the article:
Rise above it or drown: How elite NBA athletes handle pressure by Jackie MacMullan ESPN Senior Writer https://bit.ly/2F5MfLr