Whether you are being evaluated to make a team, sitting down to take a college entrance exam, or playing in a game that could change the course of your future, it is extremely difficult to be in an ideal mental state that will allow you to perform to the very best of your ability. It is very common to think about past failures (i.e.: ‘I didn’t make the team last year.’ Or ‘I did poorly the last time I sat for this exam’) or future outcomes (‘What if I don’t make a team?’ ‘What if I do poorly again?’). Unfortunately, those thoughts take away from what you are capable of. When there is a lot at stake for a particular performance, there are a few things you can do to help all that hard work pay off.
Make sure you are prepared. Give yourself the appropriate amount of time to put a plan in place to prepare. Know that you have been true to this plan. You may have to be proactive and call a meeting with a coach or teacher or do some outside research to get from point A to your desired point B. Do it. How badly do you want it, and what are you willing to put in to get there? Make sure your work is deliberate, with your end goal in mind. It’s fine to be working toward a big dream down the road, but come game day or close to it, focus on what you have absolute control over to get better, plan it into your calendar, and commit.
Keep it simple and technical. For example, you are a volleyball player serving for a spot on the club that is your first choice to play for. Choose two technical aspects of your serve that you know are important, and execute. If this is challenging, it helps to acknowledge any worry you may have, tell your self it’s ok, dismiss it and give yourself permission to worry about it after tryouts. Know that what you are thinking is normal and ok, but game day or close to it, is not a convenient time to have these thoughts.
Keep your self-talk positive and be resilient. A couple examples of these are: ‘I am prepared, I deserve to be here, and I have a chance to do something great.’ Resiliency as it pertains to error recovery is an important part of being able to achieve a great performance. Errors do not define you. They are a moment in time that you made a decision that was not quite right. Own your decision, acknowledge your disappointment, and immediately determine one or two adjustments you can make to continue on in a better way than before.