You may love or hate me for this, but I’m a devoted Dallas Cowboys fan.
We’ve had a pretty good little season. There have been some frustrating losses, but overall we got the top wild card spot and took care of the Buccaneers when it mattered most, which has excited my hometown about the potential.
But let’s focus on the highlight (or lowlight) of last week’s game, which was four missed extra points by our kicker. Of course, it’s not automatic—in 2022, there were 64 missed extra points in 1,197 attempts across the league for a success percentage of 94.65%—but it’s so common we usually consider a touchdown as 7 points.
And as far as we know, he wasn’t hurt, the conditions were excellent, nor was there anything else abnormal about the game—it was a classic choke.
Athletes tend to choke when they become too self-aware and start to process the many factors around their performance. And it’s not always just a missed shot at a critical time. The “yips” is another example of a mental block that occurs in baseball when a player loses the ability to make a routine throw that can persist for a long time.
I simply aim to get you to think about performing at your best when under pressure.
Routine and Flow
We know the warm-up has many physical benefits, but it can also help dial in the mental game.
A consistent warm-up routine provides a distractor to the external stressors of the event and a rehearsal of the cues that will bring about one’s flow state.
So have a simple series of things you execute in the same order, then run those same things every time.
Start with the general order of things, such as light cardio, then Crossover Symmetry, then dynamic stretches, followed by game-type drills, etc.
But then the routine around specific things can get super granular as well. For example, when a basketball player shoots a free throw, he fives his teammates ahead and behind him. I even watched a player mimic this when shooting free throws for a technical foul where no one was standing around the paint.
Again, the routine allows you to get out of your head, so your body can naturally go through the process without thinking involved.