It was a difficult finish. We led in the semifinal game by eight runs in the final inning. The wheels fell off. We allowed nine runs and went home.
The team was obviously distraught. But this was an important experience.
It was a new team. Many of our players had previously played lesser roles on top teams or played for lower-level teams. They needed this.
They played really well. Until, of course, the pressure began to mount. No one could make the play. No one could make the pitch. It was stressful, and I’m sure most players were hoping someone else would make the play to end it.
I didn’t want them to forget this game. I wanted them to learn from it.
A callus, defined:
a thickened and hardened part of the skin or soft tissue, especially in an area that has been subjected to friction.
When you swing the bat the first 30 times or so, you might get blisters. They hurt. But when you keep swinging over and over and over again, you get calluses. The skin toughens up.
We were soft. We hadn’t had enough of the “friction” of these difficult moments to toughen ourselves emotionally and handle it better. We needed this experience, and we needed more of them. With experience, the emotional pressure they feel would be less.
1. Experience Failure
You can’t replicate the pressure of a semifinal game in a practice. The stress. The nerves. The emotion. You have to experience it.
It’s not that I wanted to lose that game. Of course not. But you can learn some excellent lessons from that experience that you may ignore in victory.
Recognize the importance of experiencing failure. Recognize the challenge they face of performing under pressure. Help them understand that they needed this experience to get better.
2. Learn from the Failure
During the course of that high-pressure situation, many things happened. You received high-pressure reps. What did you learn from them? What will you do differently next time?
One of the lessons could be that every run matters. Handling that inning in the field could be improved, but what if we had scored more? What if we had allowed fewer when the pressure was low?
It could also be learning from how we deal with that adversity. How do we slow our heart rate? How do we remain focused?
3. Learn from the Pain
I wanted my team to remember that pain. I wanted them to see it as something that they didn’t want to experience again. Allow the pain to motivate them to work harder.
You don’t want to be on that side of it. Do what you can to make sure the other team experiences it next time.
4. Sometimes it takes Multiple Failures
As mentioned earlier, it takes reps to build these calluses. You can’t replicate high-pressure innings like this in practice. It will never be the same.
A fielder needs to take ground balls, not just when the pressure is off but when it’s on.
A pitcher needs to make pitches, not just when it’s a meaningless game but when a strike has to be thrown.
It will likely take multiple failures to get the reps necessary to start handling these situations more productively.
5. Experience Success
If you’ve experienced the pain of failure in these high-pressure situations, it will help you appreciate the success that much more.
Don’t take it for granted. Recognize how you overcame adversity to do it. Recognize that it’s easy to collapse when the pressure is on.
6. Learn from the Success
What is it that you did right that led to this success? Or is there something the other team did or didn’t do?
Sometimes, it might be a matter of the other team crumbling under pressure. Recognize it. Talk about our experiences that made us strong in that situation. Talk about how we can repeat that success next time.
7. Learn from the Joy
Once you’ve experienced the pain of failure, do not forget to fully appreciate the joy of success. Live in the moment.
Remember how great that feels. Soak it up. Bask in it. This is joy that is never guaranteed. There are things that you need to do to feel it again.
Some people may be better wired to handle high-pressured situations. But, more often, this is a learned skill. You need to build emotional calluses through multiple pressure situations and multiple failures. You will handle these situations better each time, assuming that you learn from them.
Anything else you can add about performing under pressure situations?
Let me know in the comments below!