Category: Insights

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.

 

Freedom to Learn

If you have read any of my past blog posts, you’ve noticed that I mention one reason that I don’t particularly like going to school is the whole freedom-limiting aspect. But what do I mean by that? Let me articulate and expand upon one aspect this vague idea that I refer to over and over again – Freedom to Learn.

Working at a coffee shop two years ago with Isaac and Jadyn while my parents attended an event.
Working at a coffee shop two years ago with Isaac and Jadyn while my parents attended an event.

In my mind, homeschooling was a synonym for freedom. I could look up anything I wanted, any time of the day. I’d take breaks every once in a while to research a topic or an idea that I had wanted to know about, and occasionally write about them, such as this post from a while ago that I wrote about various phobias. I simply was interested in the hilarious and unique names for different phobias that I didn’t even know existed. As a result, I discovered the name of the one phobia I had and currently have: Ichthyophobia, or the irrational fear of fish. It’s always been a weird aspect of myself, as I’m not irrationally scared of anything else, and I’d rather have spiders crawl over me than jump into a lake with a fish. Anyways, back to the topic at hand.

I learned a lot more than just that, though. Every once in a while, I’d randomly stop my work and go learn something, some of which turned out to be beneficial to me later in life. Once, when I was learning Pre-Algebra through Khan Academy, I decided I wanted to learn basic trigonometry. So, I switched out of the Pre-Algebra tab and selected the Trig course. After an hour of work, I ingrained in my brain the trig functions and their uses. At the time, mom thought that although I was learning, I should be getting back to my actual work. Turns out, all that work wasn’t for nothing… Recently, in my Geometry class, we’ve been learning the basics of Trig, and my prior knowledge of the subject allowed me to drift off and rest in class for a few days and not miss anything I didn’t already know.

As I learned new things, I found myself memorizing things with only a few minutes of practice, which helped my acquisition of knowledge greatly. I can still recite 40 digits of Pi after not practicing for over a year (3.14159265358979323846… I’m not going to continue that), remember exactly what pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is and how to pronounce it, and list off my favorite cryptids (I did a two part post about this in 2014, which you can read here).

My point is, while school provides many new ideas to ponder and write about, it’s limited in that the teachers and administration choose what I learn, rather than myself. I learned so much from homeschooling that wasn’t actually part of my curriculum, such as how to make money from YouTube, the best buying and selling prices of various iPhones on eBay, or how to create my own non-electric, non-steerable and wood-made go-cart (Yes, I did that, and it was extremely fun being pulled by a friend on a bike down the street, racing against other kids).