More is Not Always Better
More is not always better. Sometimes more can be better, but can also lead to worse. Many followers of sport psychology are familiar with Ken Ravizza’s Stoplight Analogy. The basics are that your performance is like a car approaching a stoplight. When things are rolling along and going well, you’re a Green. As things start to go poorly, you may slip into a Yellow state. Finally, Red is for when you have completely lost it. There is more to the analogy and its connection to self-awareness, but that is a summary. In my experience, I have only seen it used with individuals. That being said, I do think teams can be viewed through the same analogy.
What we do when things start to go poorly says a lot about what will happen next. Do we stay calm and get back to what has made us successful? Do we start to panic and spiral out of control? At times, with both players and teams, a tendency to want to do too much leads to poor performance. Throw a perfect pitch. Make a big play. Have the best at-bat of the year. What does this make of all the other pitches you’ve thrown, plays you’ve made, or at-bats you’ve had? Were they not good enough?
Just an opinion, but I’d say lack of effort is the exception when it comes to why performance suffers. Execution is the issue. More often than not trying hard enough, in fact, is trying too hard. Urgency creates misvalue of a moment. “I’ve got to get an at-bat here to prove to everyone I’m good.” “I’ve got to make a great play to pick up my teammate.” “This is the biggest pitch of the game.” Taking that pitch right down the middle, making an error on a play that wasn’t there to be made, and leaving one right over the heart of the plate come next. We’ve all seen it happen far too often! The thoughts then get more desperate, the muscles more tense, the breathing more shallow, and we are at Red before you know it. How about, “I’m going to attack something in the zone,” “I’m going to stay down on a ball hit to me,” and “I’m going to make a pitch right here,” instead? Rather than concern about picking up a teammate by making the next pitch, play, or at-bat worth double the value, just do what is there. THIS pitch. THIS play. THIS at-bat. Don’t be reactive to your environment. Be proactive with your performance. Execute rather than effort. Not more. Just now.