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Archive for June, 2011

From bad to worse..

8-1

That was the score of the Canucks loss last night.  The players looked visibly shocked, the coaches had no idea what to do and a city bustling with Olympic-like pride and gusto was immediately humbled.

Predictions were generous before the game – Canucks were getting better every game, every series.  Luongo seemed poised and confident, and our record was improving – 7 games in the first round, 6 games in the second, 5 in the 4th… and what was left?  A Four Game sweep of course!

So, if not a sweep, now what?

As an athlete and now a coach, I’ve often gotten caught up in the energy of “perfection”.  It’s what makes athletes, coaches, GM’s and franchises excellent – seeking perfect performances and doing every little thing that it takes to accomplish that.  And here’s where it gets tricky… we can train with perfection in mind but the second we try to play games perfectly is where things go wrong, because it’s very rare for a game to go exactly as we planned or envisioned…  We then miss opportunities as we search for the perfect play; we get caught up in our own mistakes, failing to move on from them; and when things don’t go well  we start to play with fear and caution.

There are a couple of ways to analyse why it happens that way- For all of those “The Secret” believers out there- Law of Attraction is the source of this. What we think about we attract.  Fear breeds the manifestation of fear.  Worrying about making mistakes breeds mistakes etc. etc. etc.  Our minds do not know the difference between what we want and what we don’t want.  It just produces what is on our mind.

And for those scientists out there, it’s pretty simple what happens.  Fear and nerves cause blood flow to pool in the stomach, thereby starving the extremities (aka arms and legs!), and so movement is not only restricted but our reflexes are much slower.  Looking back on last night’s game, does that sound familiar?

This is the “perfectionism trap”.  Perfectionism is great when things are, well, perfect.  But it quickly breaks down when things go wrong as it seems that there is no way out as we have already failed to be perfect.

So what now for the Canucks?  How do you regroup and come back from that performance?  I can’t say that I have the exact answer, but I think that the worse thing that they could do is overanalyze their performance.  They could go into strategy and technical aspects of the game and get caught up in what to change, but the truth is that the change that needs to happen is within them already.  They need to be okay with not being perfect, and have a little humour about the lesson they were given.  Trying to avenge a loss, or prove something to their fans will give them just that – a game spent trying and proving.  it’s uninspiring to watch, and even more uninspiring to play that way.

But I imagine they already know this.  They play week after week, in do or die situations.  They experience the best and worst of themselves on that ice day after day and so they are used to this and get coached through it.  They know how it goes.  But what about everyone else?

I’ve always said that the reason I was addicted to volleyball was because I could go through years of growth in 1 hour on the court. There is a start, middle and end to the game; you see what kind of teammate/partner you are; you see how you think and react when things are close- do you make the right play, do you get scared, do you blame your coach, yourself or teammate?  And then you finish the game, debrief, need to forget it and move on, while implementing new better ways to be in the future.  If this is not life, I don’t know what is!

But normally we don’t get to do the whole thing in such a short time.  Usually it gets stretched out over weeks, months, years and it feels neverending.  A bad play in hockey may see your team at a disadvantage for 5 minutes, but in life a bad decision could cost us years of discomfort, which really wears people down.  And so it gets really tough to forget the mistake and move on… to move past it with the information we learned and make different choices.  In fact, often there is so much time between the action and the result that we often lose sight of what caused what.  And then we (accidently) keep making the same mistake over and over and wonder why we ended up in the same place again.

It happens with work, money, dating, and family.  I’ve seen numerous friends find themselves in relationships with THAT guy that they tried to avoid.  Or people that keep ending up working with terrible bosses or who are perpetually broke no matter what kind of money they are making.

The question is, do we need a referee and a coach around or can we figure it out on our own?  When we make a mistake, do we know ourselves well enough to call the penalty, put ourselves in the box for 5 minutes, and then get back on the ice and play differently?  Or do we keep trying to play “through it” and force our game plan no matter what the other team is doing?  And though the Canucks got to walk away after 2 1/2 hours of playing with an 8-1 loss, what does that transfer into in real life?  Losing 8 things in real life is a much bigger deal – it may include a relationship, a house, a job, confidence, trust, time.

For me, I get stuck trying to be a perfectionist for sure.  Because it has served me in the past.  It has made me great at things and yet there is no doubt that there is a cap that it places on my life and so it’s important to look at my current situation and have a sense of whether I’m learning and changing myself or if I’m just trying to change the game.  Because 5 minutes in the penalty box may just be the perfect little time out – I mean, who knows what can happen while you’re in there… !

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