Losing Big Leads

How to minimize losing big leads

How many times has it happened that athletes lose games despite holding a comfortable lead? Whether it is an individual or team sport, we are perplexed every time it happens. It brings such a helpless feeling because we see the turnaround taking place before our eyes and there is nothing that we, as spectators, can do about it.

Why does it happen?

In conversation with athletes and coaches, they shared that having a lead can become a distracting factor as athletes begin to prematurely palpitate the successful ending. They start to celebrate way before they are supposed to and, instead, they lose focus. It is true that the opponent will most likely begin to take more risks or change game strategies hoping to reverse the outcome of the game. However, the lack of a mental preparation aimed at coping with this kind of a stressor poorly prepares athletes to remain focused.

When the game is slipping through the athletes’ hands, athletes either panic or hurry. They perceive that losing the game may become a reality and, rather than either adjusting to the opponents’ strategy or staying with what has been working well so far, athletes begin to take unnecessary chances. They hurry plays. Tennis players shorten rallies; basketball players attempt more three pointers; soccer players make riskier passes; squash players go for killer shots. As errors begin to mount and the lead is completely gone, despair takes over. Athletes begin to give up and gloom takes over. By now, the concentration is gone.

Athletes need to have the mental tools to know how to manage different game situations. Losing a lead is a frequent sport occurrence. Therefore, leaving athletes to react the best way they can only add unnecessary pressure.

To minimize losing big leads:

  • Mentally prepare athletes to such a situation by teaching them to remain focused and stay with the game plan.
  • Make athletes aware that if a sense of panic or hurry sets in to shift the attention to the point is being played rather than to the need to compensate for past errors.

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