If you can, imagine standing in an octagon cage with your hands wrapped in 4oz of slightly padded leather. Feel the mouth-guard sitting firmly molded to your upper teeth, and sense the energy of a crowd waiting for a battle!
What thoughts are running through your mind?
Have you ever been in a fight?
Have you ever been punched in the face?
Have you ever punched someone in the face?
Referee Big John McCarthy yells "Let's get it on!", and your opponent aggressively charges at you, looking to knock you square on your butt, and pound you until you say "uncle!".
What are you going to do?
If you've never been in a situation like this, it's difficult to know how you might react, but I'm going to suggest that you beat them to the punch. Draw first blood!
According to the Urban Dictionary, first blood is described as "the initial advantage gained by one side in any game, contest or competition."
Gaining the initial advantage in sport is mental. In baseball or softball, for example, when the pitcher throws a fastball square across the plate and the hitter watches it go by for a called first strike, the pitcher has established a psychological edge.
They just popped you in the nose!
They are ahead in the count and now they can afford to risk a little more on the next pitch, often times meaning they can throw harder and with more confidence. They have gained the initial advantage. They drew first blood. If, on the other hand, the batter is ready for that fastball, and their intention is already set to take their very best swing, they will have, at minimum, established and communicated that they are here and ready to compete in that moment, and that is every bit as good as dodging a shot to the head.
Think about it. Even if you swing and miss at a fastball down the middle, you'll have barely missed it and now the pitcher knows your intent. They know you're not going down without a fight, and now you've forced them to second-guess their next move.
It comes down to intention. Setting an intention is critical to your pre-performance routine, and science shows that if done right, it can allow you to create automatic responses (the ones you choose) to future situations or cues. That means no guessing, no hesitation and complete confidence that you're going to win this battle.
Sports psychologist George Mumford sums it up well in his book The Mindful Athlete, when he says, “From my experience working with thousands of professional and amateur athletes, the number one reason elite performers succeed, skill and resources being equal, is their desire and intention to succeed.”
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And check out the Three Steps to Flow and help your team eliminate hesitation and deliberation when their performance matters most.