Sport is the all about the score…and that is why it is preferable to ignore it. Sounds weird, right? But this blog post will explain. I firmly believe the quickest and fastest way for you to develop a winner’s mindset is to ignore the score as you compete. Sure not every gold medalist does this – but for most competitors ignoring the score lends itself to an optimal mindset. So let me tell you why…
Because the score is one of the primary stressors when you compete. Thinking about the score as you play or perform can cause a stress response. If you’re losing you can become despondent or angry, worried or fearful. If you’re winning you can become complacent or tentative. Trust me…the score is a killer…focusing on it or thinking about it as you compete can be destructive.
This isn’t particular to one single sport. A golfer who focuses on being under par can become steer-driven in an attempt at trying to avoid dropping shots. A tennis player who is thinking about being a break down can become angry – muscles tightened, coordination lost, intelligence squashed. The footballer who overly cares about being a goal up (and not losing the lead) can be too cautious with her play. She can become tunnel visioned and miss vital runs and movements that the opposition make as the game plays out.
The score is one of the biggest killers in sport. It’s a silent assassin. It can eat away at your ability to compete intelligently, with effort, making great decisions, with focus and with coordination.
And you know what the tricky thing is? Your brain loves you to focus on the score. It loves you to resonate whether you’re winning or losing at any given moment. Why? Because the brain is a prediction machine – it is constantly scanning your environment to predict what is going to happen in the near future. And it craves certainty – it loves an environment that says “Yes, I’m safe”. So it nudges and shifts you towards the score – the message that says “I’m winning I’m safe” or “I’m losing I have to change something”.
And in my opinion you don’t want to hear either message. I’m safe can mean ‘protect’ while changing something is rarely necessary (although thinking flexibility is a very useful skill in sport…but there are other ways to apply this without bringing the score into the fold).
The key to managing your brain’s innate wish for certainty (and subsequent focus on the score) is to quieten it. How?
1. Have in-game tasks to focus on that are related to what you are trying to achieve in your game and within your role
2. Keep talking to your brain. Stop listening to it and start talking to it. “Forget the score just focus now, in the moment. Come on stay focused. The score isn’t relevant stay focused.”
The sports competitors who takes control of themselves, who manage their brain, are the ones who gives themselves the best chance of winning (or at least being the best they can be on any given day.) Now that is all you can ask for…that is great sport psychology!