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The Key to Winning the Play: Emotional Management

This article originally appeared on Water Polo Planet.

Ever wonder what differentiates the most consistent players from the least? Here are some strategies to enhance emotional management during the game.

Emotional Control

We respond emotionally to the refs and other team’s actions/plays because we care too much about outcome rather than process. We all want to win, and that is why we compete for something bigger than just ourselves. Remember this and bring to the top of mind how you want to compete rather than what you want at the end or what you want others to see. By making your PROCESS more critical than your outcome you also gain a greater sense of control.

Control what you can control. Expect the expected

When we give our precious energy supplies to the aspects of the game that are uncontrollable, we become less efficient in our performance. Anxiety is a result of feeling uncertain about the outcome which is correlated to trying to find some sense of control. If we become too emotionally invested in trying to change some part of the game that we know we should expect and fail to accept it is going to happen, then we aren’t preparing optimally.

Develop your emotional release and reset strategy

Being human includes an error in judgment and decisions. The emotional attachment’s we make to our mistakes prevent us from maximizing our potential and increasing our next-play speed. An emotional release strategy needs to include breath, a mantra, and a kinesthetic cue (i.e., clapping or slapping the water). It allows us to process the result of what just happen, detach from results, and reset to this play rather than stick with the last play (or referee call). Work on it!

Measure your success and set goals based on your approval, not for others validation

Too often, we are working to please our parents, coaches, and teammates. When we don’t receive their support and acknowledgments, our ego and confidence become negatively affected. Relying too much on others takes away our intrinsic drive to push beyond what is expected. Make it your mission to do more than what’s expected on a constant and continual basis. Work on it from a positive need state. For example, “I don’t have to do this. I want to, and I need to because this is my choice.”

If we win the moment, then we win the play, and when you string multiple plays together, it turns into winning the game. Focus on your process first. If we remember W.I.N. (What’s Important Now?) on the first sprint, then we are already winning!

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