What Level Will YOU Sink To?

Recently, this summer I completed a mentorship with Dr. Bell in Indianapolis and met an awesome intern through the experience, Tyler Pazik. He is currently in his last year of the Master’s program in Sport Psychology at Texas Christian University, and on his way to making a significant impact. During our time, we had countless conversations about the field, general ideas regarding performance and mental training, opinions about blogs, and we even read some of each other’s previous work. One of his blogs that really hit home was titled, “Back to the Basics: The 80/20 Rule.” Specifically, the section where he discussed purpose and the Navy SEALs mindset; the fundamental breath.

After my collegiate volleyball career, I knew the competitive volleyball environment was not something I wanted to leave behind just yet. So, I started coaching high school and club volleyball and will now be entering into my eighth season for both. I’ve had diverse players through the years, as anyone who coaches can relate. However, one athlete always seems to stick out when thinking of the players I’ve coached. This particular player comes with an elite physical skill set and an even greater potential to succeed. She’s a six-rotation player, meaning she plays the front and backrow for my non-volleyball affiliated readers. This player is naturally gifted, along with well-developed skills for all areas of the game. Though, pressure is an element that consistently affects her physical ability to perform. One particular game that comes to mind occurred during a school season. Our team was going into a fifth set, tied 2–2 with a team that had not been beaten by our team in over ten years. From her perception, this player was not having the front row, attacking game she wanted. Although her backrow game was close to impeccable, with twenty-some digs and an excellent serve receive thus far. She came to me at the scorer’s table while I was putting in the lineup, upset, distressed, and in tears saying I needed to start our third outside instead of her because she couldn’t do it. She said she wasn’t doing well, she was doing terrible in fact, and she didn’t want to be out there; she couldn’t finish the game. The opinion of her performance in that game exacerbated the pressure of the moment to the point where her ability to perform physically was being controlled and inhibited, even though she was the best player on both sides of the net.

As Tyler pointed out in his blog, when under pressure or in a high stress situation, the Navy SEALs say, “You don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” Breathing, for example is a technique used for situations of pressure and stress and allows you to focus on the now, what’s in front of you. If this skill isn’t practiced with purpose like physical abilities, it could have an adverse effect and actually bring attention to the demanding situation (Pazik, 2017). As Justin Su’a with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Browns says, “Do what you do on purpose, with purpose.” If you aren’t able to cope with pressure through trained techniques such as breathing and perceive it as facilitative to performance, then it could become detrimental, like it did for this player. When you sink to your level, will you still be satisfied with your performance (Pazik, 2017)?

Pazik, T. (2017). Back to Basics: The 80/20 Rule. Mental Grit Consulting. Retrieved from:     http://www.mentalgritconsulting.com/back-to-basics-the-8020-rule/.

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