Many times, athletes go through stretches where they are not winning or succeeding at the rate they expect. In an attempt to right the ship, some athletes attempt to ramp up the effort and will themselves to victory. These athletes believe trying harder will get them better results. Unfortunately, trying too hard may have the opposite effect and harm performance. In reality, the harder you try does not bring about the same increase in performance. Once an athlete goes beyond a certain level of “effort,” they begin to press and it causes performance to deteriorate.
Even though hard work is held in high regard in the sporting world, “trying too hard” is a mentality that rarely results in success.
Full Effort vs. Trying Too Hard
Playing your best requires fluid, relaxed, full effort and trust in your ability to perform. It is true that playing your best requires a high level of effort but trying too hard takes you out of your zone of optimal performance.
Many coaches and athletes talk about giving 110% but it is impossible to give more than you can. When you try too hard or attempt to do too much, you start pressing (forcing play) instead of taking what is given to you (playing smart and taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you.
Trying too hard is caused by an obsession with winning or success. The preoccupation with winning makes you to believe you need to constantly make the perfect play. Perfection is not needed to succeed and causes athletes to fall prey to debilitating anxiety. Full effort allows you to work smarter and play fundamentally sound with poise and a focus mindset. When you work too hard, you are focused on working and become blind to the moments to sway the game in your favor.
To play optimally, you need that effortless, non-thinking mindset where you trust your skills and training and just play. This positive mindset allows you to manage mistakes, take errors in stride and move on to the next play. Trying too hard creates pressure, takes you out of your game and causes you to react to mistakes with frustration.
Effortless, non-thinking play encompasses the mindset of trust. Trying too hard is panic mode. Frantic effort makes you tense up, lose control of your emotions and become less coordinated. To play your best, you need to trust in your ability to compete and put yourself on autopilot. You must have the confidence to “let it happen” in competition.
Houston Astros: Being Good Enough
The Astros have not had a winning season since 2008 and have played in the post-season since 2005. The Astros won 16 more games in 2015, giving them the opportunity to face the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game.
The Astros, who have the youngest lineup in the Major Leagues, dominated the storied Yankees franchise winning the one-game wild card playoff 3-0 to advance to the American League Division series
Houston manager A.J. Hinch stated that his team is confident in playing their game and their ability to compete with any team.
HINCH: “As I’ve said before, our best is good enough.”
You don’t need to try too hard, if you focus on what is right with your game. Focusing on your strengths allows you to trust your game and play loose and poised.
HINCH: “You saw a lot of what’s right about Astros baseball. We homered, we stole a few bases that came up key. We got a two-out hit from (Jose) Altuve. We got gutsy pitching out of [Dallas] Keuchel and our bullpen, and we had some big plays on defense.”
Like A.J. Hinch says, in competition, “Your best is good enough.” If you want to raise your level of play, do so by improving your mental and physical game in practice.
Mental Tool Shed: Strategy for Resisting the Urge to Try Too Hard
You need to trust the work you have done prior to the moment in the game. Trusting your abilities allows you to adapt to game conditions in the moment. Remind yourself, to let your game flow when you feel yourself getting the urge to press. Write a cue word on your hand (“Flow,” “Ease” or “Trust”) to get you back into a positive mindset when you start to feel panicky.