As a coach, I’ve often seen my young players get really worked up over the competition. Sometimes, a player is worried about another player on another team. He’ll complain about how that person is “better than him.” Usually, he ends up stressing so much that it throws off his game; he ends up focusing so much on the other player that he forgets to focus on the game itself and playing to the best of his ability. Other times, it’s a particular team that my team gets really worried about; they put all their energy into worrying and not enough energy into the game, and, most of the time, it turns out disastrous.
What I’m getting at here is that when athletes focus on the competition and not on themselves, they usually create a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. They’re so worried about failing that they end up doing just that.
Thus, if you notice your team members (or yourself if you’re a player) stressing about the competition, you’ve got to put a stop to it right then and there. Otherwise, you’re practically going to guarantee that you’ll do poorly.
Of course, you’re probably thinking, that’s easier said than done. And, in some ways, that’s true. But you’ve just got to force yourself or your team members, whatever the case may be, to focus on themselves, on doing their best, and not on the competition. Tell your team members what they’re doing well. Remind them of their strengths and abilities. Don’t allow them to get all psyched up over the competition. Everyone will fare much better when they focus on themselves and the game at hand, not on the competition.