Are You "Mr. Crunch Time" or a Post-Season Goat? | STACK

Are You "Mr. Crunch Time" or a Post-Season Goat?

September 26, 2012 | Kermit Cannon

Clutch Free Throw

Are you "Mr. Crunch Time" or a post-season goat? Overthinking the moment can cause an athlete to miss opportunities to excel. Feeling and succumbing to pressure is a common problem among athletes and non-athletes.

Overcome pressure-packed situations by incorporating exercise and sport psychology into your routine, so your athletic movements become natural reflexes. Still not sold? Many professional athletes use exercise and sport psychology, even employing sports psychologists to help them get to the next level. Examples include snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White, NBA champion Ron Artest and NBA superstar LeBron James.

Here are some hints from sports psychology:

Take a breath

Inhale deeply and hold your breath for about four seconds, then exhale slowly; repeat. This will help you relax and regain control of your emotions so you can refocus your attention on what you have to do. (Try a circle-breathing exercise.)

Target your thoughts

Direct your thoughts on what you have to do, not the distractions. Focus only on what you need to accomplish, not on what might go wrong.

Practice your pre-game ritual

Develop a pre-performance routine to use on game day. Repetition through practice will help you dismiss thoughts of failure and execute when the pressure builds.

Prepare to perform

The less you prepare, the more anxious you'll become. The more you practice, the better understanding you'll have of what's needed and the more confident you'll feel when it's time to perform.


If you feel pressure, embrace it

Elite performers view pressure as an opportunity to rise to another level. Visualize a time when you felt confident, and focus on that moment. Tell yourself that you will dominate!

Keep your eyes on the prize

Or the old cliché, "keep your eye on the ball." Athletes who look directly at the target have more success than those whose eyes wander. When your eyes dart between other players, the field, the ball, the hoop or the goal, your brain has to take time to process all that information. Keep your eyes focused. Your hand-eye coordination will give your brain quicker feedback to execute efficiently.

Develop a catch phrase

When your goal is a personal best or you're playing for a championship, your body has to physically perform better than it ever has. To rely on your training and keep doubts from sabotaging you, dial in the motivation to prime yourself for success. Maintain focus and push out negative thoughts by using focus words, or play a song in your head that inspires you. When it is time for the event, say these words or sing that song.

According to Sports Psychology author Leif H. Smith, "Cue words are simple words and phrases that remind you of your focus points. Copying words will remind you to focus on what you need to do. If your mind is focused on your cue words, your body will follow."

Don't hesitate

Don't overthink the big moment. Giving yourself too much time to think about the process might cause you to change something in your well-practiced routine. Instead, depend on your muscle memory to execute your game plan, and strike earlier rather than later.

Kermit Cannon
- Kermit Cannon is the owner of Youth Sports Training and the author of "The Beast Factory," a nutrition and fitness book for athletes. For 19...
Kermit Cannon
- Kermit Cannon is the owner of Youth Sports Training and the author of "The Beast Factory," a nutrition and fitness book for athletes. For 19...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

4 Tips for Building Confidence

How many times have you wished you had more confidence but aren't sure how to get it? You are probably not alone since this happens to most of us quite...

A Coach Describes What It

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

3 Ways to Develop Your Football Warrior Mentality

What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

Visualize Yourself Winning, and You're Halfway There

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

Tips to Be a Better Leader

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

Prepare for Any Situation With Mental Sunscreen

6 Ideas to Build a More Cohesive Team

How Mentally Tough Are You?

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

Make Goals, Not Deals

How Losing Can Ultimately Help You Win

So You Didn't Make the Team? 5 Ways to Move On

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

Summer Mental Training Plan for Wrestling

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

Are You Playing With a Winning Mindset?

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

4 Ways to Turn Mental Toughness Into Physical Toughness

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

Overcome Your Fear of Failure

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

Don't Take Your Headphones to the Gym

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon