Pressure in Competition

Pressure – it’s always there, in every competition. I’ve felt it many times, right before I get put in during a soccer game, when I’m taking that third attempt in high jump, hearing “Runners, take your marks” before the start of the 100m dash, listening to a starter tell me “Racer ready” before a boardercross race, when I’m in the start gate for a slopestyle competition, or setting up to serve during a tennis tournament.

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Preparing to drop in at a Slopestyle event at the beginning of this year

It’s the same feeling every time – breathing hard, muscles tightening, mind in overdrive. I love it. Well, that’s not completely true. I love situations where I am forced to deal with pressure. It helps me train to deal with it. Sometimes, like earlier this year in track, I fail, not being able to clear the bar after tripping and hurting my leg. Other times I overcome, like yesterday during my slopestyle competition, when I fell hard before and during my first run, hurting myself all over, but still managed to pull it together and put down a good second run.

It’s not just me who’s had to deal with pressure, though. Last year, I watched my brother play in a tennis tournament against an obviously better player, but as I saw that day, skill isn’t everything. Isaac’s opponent had him 3-0 in a 4 game set, and was closing in on victory. Although his skill seemed superior, Isaac still kept fighting, mentally staying in the game, and began to work his way back, winning three straight games, making the score 3-3. It was amazing to watch Isaac, who pushed himself to his limit, muscles completely locking up to the point where he’d periodically fall over, take over the match. His opponent was obviously mentally breaking down, crying and screaming on the court when he lost 3 straight games. His mom complained to the head pro running the tournament that Isaac was making bad calls, and the pro (who was actually Isaac’s opponent’s coach), came onto the court, stopping play, and acted as a line judge. To no surprise, Isaac never made a single call that was contradicted. Isaac persevered until the end that day, but after stopping the play, he was completely spent, and unfortunately lost the match. I think we were all a bit surprised at Isaac’s mental game that day, and he definitely gained my respect.

Jadyn seems to automatically step up to the call of competition. Before every recent snowboard competition, she seems to just get in the zone, blocking out all thoughts of failure. As I watch her at every snowboard competition, I see her look at the course (the halfpipe, the slopestyle course, or the boardercross track), take a deep breath, exhale, and then perform. She’s honestly probably the most calm and consistent out of the three of us. She never complains at a failed run, or a bad fall, and if she ever does say something, she always just tells us later.

Every competition, every jump, every race, every serve. Pressure will always be there, and I know I’ll continue to get better at dealing with it. There’s many different ways that people deal with pressure, and I know that Isaac, Jadyn and I all prepare for it in different ways. Isaac listens to his playlist to get him hyped up. Jadyn hangs out with her friends, talking to them, seemingly keeping her mind off the competition. And me? I like to be alone, watch and analyze other competitors, and mentally tell myself exactly what is going to happen in the competition, visualize it, and then visualize backup plans.

I write this as I prepare for the first boardercross competitions, because firstly, writing my thoughts out on my blog somehow puts them in a place I can see and reflect on them, and secondly, I love writing. My coaches and family expect me to do well in boardercross, probably because of the fact that I love to go fast (even when I’m in the park… :P) and race. Looking forward, I hope to take home a medal sometime or another during these first four races at Ski Cooper, and if not, I’ll have more chances to take one home in the three after in Crested Butte. I know I’ll have many chances to deal with pressure in the future, and my hope for my future self is that I’ll be able to step up to the challenge.

 

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