There was a study done done about 10 years ago about what the deciding factors in NCAA college basketball games decided by less than five points were. The top three in order were: Free throw shooting, rebounding, and turnovers. I was a little surprised because as a former coach and long-time observer and fan, I thought those would be flipped. As I watched many games over this past week leading into the “Big Dance,” the study results were clearly evident.
As a coach, missed free throws just perturbed me. As a fan watching my favorite team, it might be even worse as these are Division I athletes. I know their coaches are on the sidelines pulling out their hair. It’s not like they aren’t practicing free throws; it is the one shot in the game that is completely predictable and the same without any defense as an obstacle. So why are so many missed late in games?
Missed free throws are mental; not physical. It’s a part of mental toughness that gets overlooked. Being able to focus solely on the process without regards to the chaos and consequences around us. That’s why amateur golfers like me can be flawless on the driving range and then clunk one in the water on the real course with all our buddies watching.
In business, it’s no difference. Sales professionals make uncharacteristic mistakes in important presentations when they are anxious (and sometimes desperate) to make a sale. CEOs and business leaders allow external tumult to distract them from the normal decision-making process they use. Employees under pressure (especially time pressure) more easily succumb to missteps and gaffes because of fear of failure.
We are all humans and will occasionally “choke” at our own free throw lines. That’s a part of the growth and development process. The mistake is often made when thinking mistakes are more physical or skills related. While they sometimes are, the majority of uncharacteristic mistakes still arise when we allow our fear of failure (especially in front of others) to mask our talent and cause us to make sometimes crucial errors.
Bottom line: Learn your craft; have confidence; beef up your mental toughness through disciplined thinking; control what you can control; and then (this is the important one) go have fun. The best athletes in the world make the least mistakes because they are simply having fun and playing. You can do the same.
Quote of the Day:
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
~ Helen Keller
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