“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it but what they become by it.” John Ruskin
How many times do you hear a football player or baseballer or basketballer say something like “It was tough out there today. The other team really psyched us out”.
Sportspeople talk about the psyche out as something someone else did to them – that someone somehow did something mystical or magical that impacted on their performance.
Lots of people talk about psyching out…………..so what is it?
What is a psyche out?
A psyche out is the words, actions and behaviors of another person trying to increase pressure on you and as a result try to negatively influence your performance.
Pressure is a misunderstood concept in sport.
Pressure is not the race;
It is not the crowd;
It is not the gold medal;
It is not the opposition.
It is something you put on yourself – it is something you create: it is something you generate.
The psyche out has one goal – to convince you to put more pressure on yourself.
Even the best swimmers will perform poorly if they lack confidence and can not deal with the pressure of competition.
Think about swimming in your home pool on a warm summer morning with your friends. It feels great. It feels relaxed. It feels comfortable.
Now imagine 50,000 people sitting in the stands around the pool watching you swim.
How do you feel? Nervous? Tense? Uncomfortable? Under pressure?
The pool hasn’t got any longer. The water hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is you – and your perception that swimming in front of 50,000 people is different (and more pressure) than swimming in front of a few moms and dads.
Pressure is something you generate in response to your perception of the situation.
Why do some people try to psyche out others?
Nothing impacts on performance like pressure! The main reason people try psyche out others is to artificially create pressure by increasing doubts, fears and insecurities in their opposition and try to erode their confidence.
Remember this…………Pressure places people in positions for poor performance.
Why are psyche outs such an effective strategy?
Your attitude and your confidence determine your destiny. Anything that impacts on your attitude and destroys your confidence is potentially damaging to your performance.
The psyche out is a tool some people use to attack attitude and kill confidence to get you to increase pressure on yourself.
What kinds of psyche outs are there?
Psyche outs come in two basic forms – the Dirty Downers and the Positive Power Plays.
Dirty Downers (DD) are those psyche outs which focus on bringing people down through criticism, sarcasm and down right meanness.
Positive Power Plays (PPP) are psyche outs which give you strength and confidence without putting anyone else down.
Dirty Downers: Where do they happen?
Dirty Downers can happen any where – the locker room, at the end of the pool during warm up, in the ready room, in the marshalling area, behind the blocks…….you name it, the Dirty Downer can hit you anytime…anywhere.
Who does them?
Thankfully not many swimmers are Dirty Downer Do-ers!
Dirty downer do-ers are often swimmers who lack confidence in themselves and decide their best tactic (and their best chance of winning) lies not in developing their own confidence and self belief but in destroying the confidence of others.
Make yourself psyche out proof.
Here’s the secret……………………..psyche outs only work if you let them!
It’s not the psyche outs that are the problem – it’s how you respond to them.
Dirty downer do-ers can find fault in your appearance, your clothing, your hairstyle, your club, your friends, your family, your coach, your training program, your swim gear, your body odor, your dog………but the important thing is to learn to control how you respond to the comments and criticisms.
A Dirty Downer Do-er is trying to get you to lose confidence and get you to create pressure on yourself by making you feel inadequate in comparison to them.
Forget comparing yourself to other people – compare yourself with how close you are to your own full potential.
Some of the best (and worst) psyche outs:
A few leading swimmers were asked to talk about the best and worst psyche outs they have ever heard. Here are some real beauts!
“Is that swim suit really small or have you just put on weight lately”
“Are you still swimming? I heard you gave up a long time ago”
“You look really tired – are you ok?”
“Those goggles are really old. I can’t believe you still wear them”
Regardless of the psyche out – remember the secret – the psyche out only works if you respond to the pressure it is trying to create!
What they say and what they mean………………………….
Often the Dirty Downer Do-er will give hints about how they really think and feel in their psyche outs.
If they are feeling a bit flat, tired and fatigued, they might try to hit you with a “hey you look tired and worn out” comment.
Listen to what they say but also listen to what they mean:
They say: “I have been doing 10 sessions a week and I am in the best shape of my career” .
They mean: “I am not really sure how i am going to go today”
They say “We’re swimming through the meet. We’re not even tapering for this meet”
They mean: “I need an excuse in case I don’t swim well today”
They say:“We’ve just done a hell week”
They mean: “I am really tired”
They say: “We’re doing 50 miles a week”
They mean: “I am really tired”
They say: “I’ve just done a huge pb in the gym”
They mean: “I need to make you think i am stronger than i really am”
So………what do you do when a Dirty Downer Do-er strikes??????????????
Read Part Two later this week which starts with Ten things you can do to respond to a psyche out-er!