Inside Pitch Magazine, Winter 2017

Ground Rules: High-Pressure Performance

By a former DI Athlete and Navy SEAL

By Jason Kuhn
Jason KuhnFirst, we watched videos of shark attacks. Second, we had fish blood poured on us. Third, we had to swim a mile at night, in the ocean off of the coast of California. We were two weeks away from graduating SEAL training. No one was going to quit now. As we ran down the beach to enter the water, the only noise you could hear were footsteps…until my buddy broke out into the Lord’s prayer. We all joined him. We were no longer fearful. We were hooting, hollering, and excited for the opportunity to forge ourselves. The experience could be terrifying, or it could be an exhilarating opportunity…but it was going to happen.

High-pressure situations are coming. Embrace them. Learning to control your thoughts and actions regardless of circumstance is the key to producing success more often than failure. When anxiety creeps in, it is out of concern for what may happen to us. We don’t want to die…or to fail. The foundation for eliminating anxiety is to remove the source. Defer your concern to the well being of your teammate with thankfulness for the opportunity to do so. Through a spirit of selfless service to the team and the dream, we remove the source anxiety needs to survive. It’s a parasite feeding on misplaced concern. Through this concern, I witness athletes attempting to force outcomes.

We cannot force outcomes. We influence outcomes through fundamental processes. If we could force them, we would always win and so would everyone else. Therefore, the outcome is outside of our control.  Uncontrollable requirements create pressure. Pressure creates stress.

We must free ourselves from the requirement of the outcome, while demanding perfection of everything within our control. This lifestyle is not instinctual. It takes time to create valuable, habitual response. However, it’s from the value in such a lifestyle that a Navy SEAL once said, “It’s not that we’re that good. It’s that everybody else sucks.” He meant that we produce focused fundamental action to influence the outcome with recognition, but disregard for the fact that we may die while doing so. This is because we understand it’s the focused fundamental action that produces our best chance to live. The emotion attached to the outcome inspires our discipline into the process. Through this discipline we create pressure for our opponents and let them break in it. How?

Understand pressure it is not real. It’s what you allow it to be. Think of a situation where nerves affected your performance. Imagine the same situation with a 25 run lead. The emotion attached to the outcome is causing the sense of pressure, but the execution of the action does not change, just your level of concern for the outcome. Anything you're experiencing, so is your opponent.

Working with an MLB player, we developed the following mental checklist to produce focused confidence into fundamentals prior to an AB or pitch.

A. Free yourself from the requirement of the outcome.
  • Forget statistics. What value does knowing your batting average provide?
  • Stats are for strategy, not labels.

B. Be thankful.
  • Thankfulness is the tactical nuclear weapon to negativity in the mind.
  • There is always someone who would like to be where you are.

C. Spark confidence with self-talk in your mind prior to execution.
  • Hitter – “Attack the baseball”
  • Pitcher – “Attack the zone”
  • Or favorite motivational song; whatever makes you aggressive.

Once the warrior frees himself from the fear of death, he then becomes dangerous…so stop trying to get a hit and start hitting! That’s how winning is done and it pays to be a winner.

“The ability to control my thought and action regardless of circumstance sets me apart from other men.” –The Navy SEAL Creed.


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