How to become a ‘big-game’ specialist.

Do you rise or fall in the presence of big-game-pressure?

Key Take-Aways:

  1. How we identify, absorb and control the imminent nervous tension of big games (finals, try-outs etc) is a major contributor to sporting career success.
  2. Perception is not reality! You control the ability to negatively or positively perceive high-pressure situations but it takes practice.
  3. Pressure and anxiety can negatively affect your nervous system excitability which results in a sense of fatigue and lethargy often before the game has even started!
  4. External pressure; coaching staff, teammates, family, friends
  5. Internal pressure; often stemming from self-inflicted expectations to produce a certain outcome as a direct reflection of your personal worth and value.
  6. Mimicking the conditions of a big game or increasing the stakes (using punishment or reward) in training drills, can better prepare us for optimum performance.
  7. Following a structured psychological prep routine (including visualisation & imagery) leading up to a big game will further optimise physical performances.
  8. Stay in the moment! By recognising the physical impact of ‘stress’ and controlling it, you can focus on what matters (i.e. the next passage of play, playing your role, enjoyment!)

Why do some athletes compete consistently well in big games when the stakes are at their highest – while others tend to really struggle or go missing? A major contributing factor to these contrasting outcomes involves our ability to absorb, control and use pressure to shape performance.

Perception of Pressure

How we perceive the ensuing pressure of a big game can largely shape how we performance under its stressors. For instance, if an athlete perceives pressure negatively, then negative thought processes will ensue – self-doubt and a loss of confidence, destructive self-talk, poor concentration, or indecision and “freezing up”.

Conversely, if an athlete perceives pressure positively – understanding that with pressure comes the physiological feeling of nervousness, which in turn, actually increases arousal and alertness, heartrate and breathing efficiency – then positive performance outcomes are more likely to follow.

External Sources of Pressure

Increasing or reducing external sources of pressure can also positively assist in shaping our performance. For instance, coaches, teammates, family and friends can unknowingly pass on their feelings (be it positive or negative) concerning a big game. If their feelings are ones of doubt or panic, then it may not bode well for our subsequent performance. In such cases, it may be worth distancing ourselves from such external sources (in the short-term, at least – sorry mum!).

Train the Way You Play

Experiencing pressure not just on competition day, but in training too, can better prepare us to absorb the pressure that is present in big games. Being exposed to pressure at training allows us to make mistakes, learn from them, and then rectify those mistakes, all well before the actual competition takes place.

Once we learned a skill correctly, and increase the intensity and quantity of which we complete it at training, then it is worth including some additional pressure into the training environment. This can be in the form of teammates – placing token pressure on you throughout a drill – as to mimic the conditions of a big game.

Follow a Routine

Following a structured routine can also help mitigate potential feelings of overwhelming pressure. From completing a light mobility circuit, to eating certain meals at certain times on game day, completing a pre-game routine can help alleviate any potential feelings of anxiety, in that it provides us with a familiar environment that has bred successful performances in the past.

Visualise Worst-case Scenarios

Pre-game visualisation can better prepare us for the pressures of any big moment in a game. Rather than visualising the perfect play in a big game, try visualising what may go wrong, and then, how you are going to fix it to the best of your abilities. Through adopting this “worst-case scenario” visualisation technique, no situation on game day should catch you off guard.

Identify Internal Triggers

Experienced big game players have openly described their ability to quickly recognise the symptoms synonymous with pressure, which they believe goes a long way to using that pressure to optimise their performance. As previously mentioned, with pressure comes an increase in heartrate and breathing, as well as that infamous feeling of “butterflies in your stomach”. Big game players recognise when these symptoms ensue, and control their arousal accordingly. If they have exceeded their optimum arousal levels pregame, then they implement simple breathing techniques to reduce such levels.

Pro tip: next time your nervous energy is “red lining”, try inhaling through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, holding that breath for a count of 2 second, and exhaling gently through your mouth for a count of 6 seconds.

Be Where Your Feet Are!

Additionally, big game players have also described narrowing their focusing on to the next passage of play specifically – not on what has occurred beforehand, or what might occur in the future. If you make a mistake, then at least you still have another chance to start and try again, almost immediately. This technique also reminds us of what parts of our performance are actually under our control. Try not getting caught up in focusing on the outcome or results, but instead, focus on process that will get you there – the next big tackle, gut-busting run or explosive attempt on goal.

Final thoughts…

Nervous energy is just that… energy! You can let that energy throw your mental cognition into overload until the point that you’re completely exhausted or you can harness that energy you’re your physical contribution to the game. If you’re currently using technology (such as GPS) to track your total running distance or high-speed-running, why don’t you compare your stats in a high pressure games to those of a low pressure game (against similar opposition) to see how well you manage pressure!

Stop guessing… start measuring!

The SPT Lab

Features of the new SPT Unit.

BLUETOOTH:

This will enable you to get REAL-TIME data during a performance on your mobile phone (iOS or Android) with our new GameTraka mobile app.

Coaches, parents and/or spectators will be able to view key metrics (session length, the distance covered, Zone 6 distances, sprint counts and impact counts) throughout the match. When the SPT device is within a certain distance, you will be able to scan for the device and see the results.

GYROSCOPE AND MAGNETOMETER:

The new device contains a magnetometer and a gyroscope. The magnetometer detects the Earth’s magnetic field, and the gyroscope detects the orientation of the device when worn on a player’s back (which way up the device is).

Using sensor fusion SPT will use this data along with the accelerometer to get precise readings of accelerations and the direction you’re running, letting us get better statistics (like maximal accelerations and sprint calculations) about your performance, as well as helping SPT improve our GPS accuracy even further.

ACCELEROMETER:

This exciting new feature will help you as an athlete, measure your acceleration and deceleration forces. This feature will help you better understand the forces your body was put through during your performance.

Any tackles, bumps and hits will now be recorded at 100 times a second and added to Gametraka to further enhance your SPT experience.

GAMETRAKA APPLICATION FOR iOS OR ANDROID:

A Gametraka app will be released with the new unit. The Gametraka app will allow you to connect your smartphone/tablet to your device for real-time data via Bluetooth. You will also be able to view your performances and team profiles like you would on your computer.

Trent Clulow leads the way with impressive GPS results for Bentleigh Greens FC.

SPT clients the Bentleigh Greens marched their way through to the Round 16 of the FFA Cup after a sweet victory against Hume City. An impressive goal from Tyson Holmes deflecting the Hume City Keepers kick got the ball rolling. However, Liam Boland of Hume City struck back in the second half. After some dominant defensive displays from Trent Culow and Kieren Dover, they kept Hume City to the 1 goal and saw the match end up in a penalty shoot-out.

Bentleigh dominated the shoot-out 4-1 after some impressive keeping from Ryan Scott.

It was a tough match with both sides showing signs of fatigue towards the 90 minute mark. With howling winds and frosty conditions both teams will be proud after their performances. After such an impressive victory for the Greens came some very impressive GPS results that any footballer would be happy with. We have dissected the performances and found that winger Trent Clulow is a serious athlete!

Bentleigh Greens GPS results top 3

Distance:

Clulow – 17, 840m

Dover – 16, 564m

Liftin – 15, 978m

Top Speed:

Clulow – 27.81 km/hr

Liftin – 26.86 km/hr

Webster – 26.85 km/hr

Sprint Efforts:

Clulow – 151

Dover – 118

Liftin – 104

Zone 6 metres:

Clulow – 814m

Liftin – 677m

Dover – 672m

Swan Hill College using SPT

We are starting to see many colleges and schools invest in our GPS technology for multiple reasons. One being that coaches and sport staff want to monitor the workloads of their student athletes during matches and training. These students are confronted with various amounts of physical demands, sometimes these demands prove too much for younger athletes resulting in an injury or decrease in performance. Coaches and staff can now use SPT’s Gametraka platform to identify any performances or trainings which may lead to an injury. To find out which metrics to look for, please read here: (www.sportsperformancetracking.com/sports-performance-tracking-preventing-injuries-in-contact-sports.)

By determining this information and identifying any outliers in regards to performance workload, coaches can change their training regime to accomodate how the athletes have performed.

Schools and colleges are also using SPT in their physical education and sport science classes. Student’s are required to make links to a performance they have undertaken with fitness components and energy systems. The Gametraka platform provides students with an easy understanding of how they performed in a match or training. From this data they have gathered, they can create trainings that replicate the performances. We recently spoke to Whitney Kennedy of Swan Hill College about how their students are using SPT GPS technology. Read below:

‘Our school have recently purchased SPT GPS devices to use within our Physical Education/Health Department. Our students and staff have thoroughly enjoyed using 21st century technology to gain feedback and information, similar to that of professional athletes. Students are motivated to compare their data from previous performances, against other students, and to that of what a professional athlete may achieve. The devices have become a key component of our senior practical lessons, where students have applied results to make links to theory topics and content such as energy systems, fitness (training methods), concepts of physical activity, methods of assessing physical activity, movement analysis and feedback, as well as many others.
We are constantly challenging ourselves and our students to remain up to date with current trends and concepts in order to improve performance and outcomes within our training and sport. SPT GPS devices greatly support this challenge.’

Whitney Kennedy
Physical Education and Health Learning Leader
Swan Hill College