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Friday, April 27, 2018

Learn to Overcome Adversity

Bad is stronger than good...

Wednesday's post - How Interference Affects Your Play - showed a conversation with Matthew Blom about how interference affects a player in attaining his full ability from moment to moment. I made a couple of references in that conversation for which I would like to add some context.

Allowing the pickleball world to enter my thoughts is generally the bigger factor. Studies have shown that errors are more impactful on peoples' memories than successes. Players have to overcome the bad thoughts that can arise from a prior point or game. They simply must let the past get behind them and move on in order to concentrate on the immediate future - the next task.

The bold statement that opens this post - Bad is stronger than good - is not intended as a commentary on world events. It has as its basis my highlighted statement from the conversation. In fact, it is the name of a study done in 2001. The study opens with:
The greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events, major life events (e.g., trauma), close relationship outcomes, social network patterns, interpersonal interactions, and learning processes. Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good. The self is more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones. 
That is a nice word salad meant for those who study these things, but what does it mean for us as pickleball players. Simply put, our bad shots and bad results are more impactful than good shots and good results. Bad shots bring more distress than good shots bring elation. Memories of bad shots linger longer than memories of good shots. 

Those are psychological distractions that affect performance. As players, we must learn to overcome our natural inclination to be negative. When momentum turns against us, it can increase rapidly if left to our unconscious selves. We must make a conscious effort to change momentum by looking forward while ignoring the past.

But it can take effort - sometimes lots of effort - to both get into that state and then to stay there. It depends on experience and discipline.

Experience teaches people to overcome life and athletics. I started playing sports as a kid and have participated in some kind of competitive sport ever since. I've gone from baseball to basketball to bowling to tennis to golf and now to pickleball. Along the way, I learned to block out outside distractions. Otherwise, it would be tough to shoot free throws in front of a hostile and loud crowd.

The internal distractions from bad thoughts are tougher to overcome. It takes hard work and discipline to force your mind to seal off past mistakes and regain confidence. I also developed the discipline to succeed in the face of adversity at a young age. Allow to relate a story from my teens.

I had been an all-star baseball player through Little League, Pony League, and American Legion. In the final year of my baseball career, we were in the playoffs against a rival town - the same rival town that had come from behind in the last inning and knocked us out of the playoffs the prior year. We faced the identical situation the next year. I was pitching and we held a one-run lead into the last inning. I do not recall the exact sequence, but the other team got some players on base and it looked like a repeat performance of a last-inning loss for us. 

It did not happen. I had a singular thought at some point in the inning. That thought was that I would not allow us to lose this game that way. From that point on, my focus was solely on the catcher's mitt as I poured 100% of my talent into each pitch. 

I was able to eliminate all negative thoughts and focus on the moment. And that is the lesson. Don't ignore your negative experiences from bad shots and bad results. Instead, learn from them. When facing the same situation again, focus on the positive learning and not the bad result. Learn from your experience and the discipline to overcome adversity will follow.

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