Duke and Butler battled it out for the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship Monday night. Butler’s Gordon Hayward attempted to win the game with a last shot at the buzzer, but it hit the front of the rim and bounced to the floor.
Hayward’s missed shot allowed Duke to edge out Butler 61 to 59. “It will become an historic game, a benchmark game, not just the way it was played, but who played in it and what comes about,” Said coach Mike Krzyzewski after the game.
Duke’s win Monday night secured their fourth national championship. But, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he wasn’t thinking about winning a fourth national championship.
Acting like a mental coach, he helped his team focus on their roles and how to execute each play. I call this “focusing on the process” instead of obsessing about outcomes or the win.
In today’s world of sports, many athletes underperform because they focus too much the outcome of the competition, which can lead to pressure. Coach K said the goal for his team want to become immersed into their preparation and performing well.
“You’re asked more (about) this could be Duke’s fourth national championship, and all that. We just shied away from talking about that at all or try to think about it, and try to immerse ourselves in what these guys were doing. It’s much better. Like for me to think about being with them now is much better than thinking about the fourth national championship,” said Krzyzewski.
I tell all my athletes that outcomes, win/lose, and championships flow from executing one play at a time and focusing on the process. It’s great to have lofty goals, such as winning the championship game, but what’s the plan to reach those goals?
Many teams crumble under the pressure when they think about what might happen if they win or lose. You or your team lose focus on the current shot, play, or strategy for the game, which can lead to mental errors and poor decisions, such as turning the ball over.
Of course Duke’s coaches and players wanted to win the national championship–a dream for any ball player. But they accomplished this by being immersed in the present moment and what they had to do to execute their game plan against a unique Butler team.
You have to handle the pressure from within…Coach K has a different spin on what pressure means to his ball players. Pressure he said is attempting to do something you’re not capable of doing.
As I’ve contended for years, he thinks pressure comes from within the athlete, specifically from expectations that come with thinking you need to win or others expect you to win.
“I think pressure is when you’re asked to do something you’re not capable of doing. So you should train and be in a position where you’re capable of doing what people ask of you. And if you’re continually feeling pressure, you should probably try to do something you can do,” said Mike Krzyzewski.
Pressure is really self-imposed. You don’t feel pressure from coaches, teammates or the media. You put pressure on yourself to do well. You can however, adopt the expectations others have for you. For example, if you think others expect you to win, you might take on others’ expectations as your own.
“I think everyone feels pressure, but not the pressure from the outside. It’s the pressure from within, to do as well as you think you can do,” said Mike Krzyzewski.
Put yourself in a position to do what you trained yourself to do–not what others expect–and you won’t feel the pressure to win the big game.
What are the Mental Keys to Help You Focus on the Process?
- Be aware of and let go of the expectations you feel from yourself and others, especially the expectations that focus on results an outcomes
- Set process goals or mini goals to help you think about executing one play, shot, or routine at a time, such as to take the open shot when it presents itself.
- The key is to focus on preparation for the big game, not what winning the big game may bring. During the game, you need to focus on making the next pass, executing the play, or staying with your opponent on defense–all tasks that will lead to good outcomes.
- Learn to redirect your mind when you get too far ahead of yourself. Refocus quickly when you think about the final score or outcome of the competition and what they may mean to you and others you care about.