|Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 8
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PREPARING FOR PRESSURE - (TONY LA RUSSA – PART THREE)
During his 33 year career, Hall of Fame baseball Manager Tony La Russa became the third winningest manager in the history of professional baseball. Part of his success was due to his development of a coaching system to help his players excel in high pressure situations. La Russa's teams were known for winning close games and coming through in the "clutch" (high pressure situations).
In his book One Final Strike La Russa described his process:
"High-pressure situations aren't something that you just wake up born to deal with. We taught players to embrace pressure and make it their friend. And the way they'd do that was to confront it. They couldn't hide from it and say, Hey, whatever happens, happens, so just go out there.
They had to step up to make something happen when they were expected to make something happen. They had to feel the anxiety, but we had taught them how to handle that anxiety, to use it to become a "go-to" competitor.
How did we teach that? Our first lesson would be never to let them run away. We'd tell the guys to feel it—the more often the better. Over time they'd just get used to it. Just like, if you live near a train and have to listen to signal bells and locomotive sounds all night long, eventually you stop hearing them. It becomes part of your normal state of affairs. That's what would happen once a player acknowledged pressure and anxiety.
Some players react by becoming too hyper, and others become too tentative. Experience provides the player with a chance to evaluate his reaction and then make adjustments. The hyper player needs to breathe deeply and slow himself down. The tentative player needs to push himself to be aggressive and let it go.
Feeling it is the first part of learning to deal with pressure. The second part is preparation. If you've done everything you can in advance to put yourself in the position to succeed, you'll be more relaxed and better able to deal with the pressure that comes with having to perform.
Feeling the pressure and preparing for it are vital, but the third part is the golden rule when it comes to high-stress moments, and something that we'd emphasize in all situations, not just pressurized ones. When you're in a position to perform, getting distracted by the possible result creates more pressure than anything else.
If you're focused on the result, you feel the anxiety. Instead, concentrate on the process, not the result. Win through process."
La Russa coached his players on dealing with pressure from the very beginning of the season. He didn't wait until the playoffs.
What is your process for preparing for pressure? When do you start it?
Yours in Coaching,
My Credo Of Life
Let me live within the moment.
Pat A. Flemming
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