Recently, I competed in a conference championship for Cross Country, and as a team we underperformed to our expectations. With all of us disappointed and gathered in a group to question what went wrong, our coach added in to our reflections:
“…mental stress reveals itself in a physical sense”
Our coaches pointed out how we were in the middle of our midterm exams, job interviews, and dozens of group projects that took up our time and energy. There’s a learning curve in juggling priorities, and our race performance was a wake up call to get our act together.
Prior to the race we also had several miscommunications between trying to reach the Athletic Association Banquet. The conference meet brings all of the universities in our division (Chicago, St. Louis for example) together for a dinner. The problem was that our athletic department placed us in a hotel nearly an hour and a half away from the banquet. The airport was also nearly two hours away from the racing course.
We had one day to fly from New York City to Atlanta, drive two hours out from the airport to check out the course, drive another hour to the hotel, and then rush straight to the banquet. In the mix up of these traveling issues, and one of the key members of our team nearly missed the race because of an extremely late flight.
The University Athletic Association Banquet event stuck out to me. All of the other teams showed up right on time, but we were busy fumbling around with what to wear. We spent too much time complaining about our situation instead of just working with what he had. All of the mental stress eventually affected our racing performance.
When we finally arrived at the banquet, we bursted out into the middle of the room. Everyone stared at us and we noticed how all of the food trays were empty. Some of us weren’t even wearing the right formal clothes. Our guys forgot dress shoes so their only alternative was to wear the training shoes they had with them.
We weren’t organized and we were over an hour late to the banquet. Our rival top teams there saw how we presented ourselves.
Sure… it would’ve been a “baller move” as they say, to dominate and win the meet the next day…however, we showed up flat and disappointed ourselves with a lackluster performance. You could argue that by showing up late carried the element of surprise, but this was not true. We knew we could’ve ran better so we used this as motivation for our other upcoming championship races.
Needless to say, we delivered. We bounced back two weeks later in our Regionals race, and punched in a ticket to Louisville, Kentucky for our Nationals Cross Country Championship. This time the mental stress was fuel to tackle our challenges. The anxiety we shared kept us alert for our race.
- We didn’t fumble around with any traveling issues
- Our focus was on the race-our school work was taken care of
- Resilience= our core mindset
Reflecting on our conference meet, I believe a lot of the little things we could’ve done differently added up to our lackluster performance. Winning teams know how to capitalize on all of the small preparations and tune ups that occur throughout a season. Our sloppy preparation just added in to our stress and our sloppy practices persevered through our racing performance.
If you show up to an exam or a job interview late and not dressed right, this’ll mess up your mindset. You’ll be stressed about running late to the exam or interview, and your nervousness will show when you’re asked to perform. If you cram and try to prepare for something last minute, you’ll fall flat. It’ll be a snowball effect to failure that starts off by not taking care of the small things….
Think about how a football team may seem good on paper, but yet they find ways to lose games throughout the season. The stat sheet may show a prolific offense, but if the team keeps on throwing interceptions or fumbling the football…there’s no way they’ll find success. They don’t take care of the basics and the result is a loss.
In my conference meet
- We didn’t take care of our school work earlier
- Our traveling and hotel situation was a mess
- We showed up late to something as simple as a dinner
We stressed out over these small things and as a result we mentally tripped and landed right on our faces…