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How do you reverse a slump?
I’ve recently started coaching a guy who was a double world champion going into the last Olympics but bombed badly in Beijing.
We’ve just been to a competition in France and he’s bombed again - in conditions similar to China. Admittedly, he hadn’t had a lot of preparation coming into this competition as it’s early in the European season - but neither had a lot of the other top athletes. Also, his equipment was a bit below standards due to unforeseen circumstances, but it wasn’t so bad to cause a world champion to finish half way down the score board.
No, the truth is, the monkey is still on his back.
From time to time, top athletes, for whatever reason, can encounter a string of well below par results and this tends to dent their confidence after a while. The result is a frustrated and exasperated athlete.
Low confidence can eat away at the decision making process. Decisions that used to seem easy and obvious are now thought about more, analyzed and anguished twice over. The extra analysis is meant to produce a better result and when it doesn’t, confidence is hit again.
If the athlete starts to think more about results and begins to fear loosing, then attention is diverted from normal thoughts concerning skill execution and game play that served the athlete so well in the past.
So, how do you remove the monkey?
Well, monkeys have quite a good grip - that’s how they climb trees so well! They won’t be shaken off easily.
(Forgive me for continuing the monkey analogy even further)… The trick is to distract the monkey by filling your mind with what matters to performing well in your sport – focus on the process. The monkey will eventually get distracted and jump on someone else’s back!
In practice, your skills never actually leave you after a string a bad results. What leaves you is the focus that allows you to execute the skills of your sport as efficiently and accurately as you have trained yourself to. So a key to reversing a slump is to go back to building your skills as solidly as possible.
In times of stress the body naturally wants to go back to the behavior it knows best. Train yourself well and a skillful performance will be the behavior your body always wants to replicate.
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