Heart races. Pulse quickens. Doubts creep into your mind.
“Am I good enough?”
“I’ve made mistakes before.”
“They are better.”
Once the doubt takes hold, confidence fades. Pressure produces stress, doubt, and fears. Whether it is pressure to make a big marketing pitch for a promotion or to save the final shot in a close game, pressure is a bitch. Pressure can become suffocating, crushing focus and stoking insecurities.
Goalies know all about pressure. They are the last line of defense and can often make the difference between winning and losing. I have the opportunity to work with two of the best high school goalies in the country, even though I have never played goalie myself. Honestly, I don’t know if I could cut it. The mental game is as important as skill because even though they are surrounded by teammates, they are alone in the cage.
As is true for most of us, goalies take responsibility for losses, but rarely take ownership for wins. My two goalies are talented, focused, intelligent, and extremely hard on themselves. Tonight the team I coach lost in overtime to a heated rival. The girls fought hard to come back from a four goal deficit with less than four minutes to play in the game. The entire team was ecstatic as the ball hit the back of the net to tie the game. In overtime, we went up by a goal, but we couldn’t hold them and lost by one. Heartbreaker.
After the game, many of the girls were upset. I pulled both goalies aside and had long talks with them individually. They each opened up about the pressure they experience and the ways in which they are struggling. I feel honored to have their trust enough to share their thoughts and insecurities with me. I also remembered how debilitating the pressure to be perfect and the pressure of expectations, by self or other, can be in high school. Having an uphill battle with perfectionism myself for all of my life, I see how that pressure can manifest into all aspects of life from a young age: sports, school, work, family, love, community, etc.
Being “perfect” is the monkey on our back. It holds us back from reaching our potential because instead of confidently saying, “yes I can. I believe in myself”, the “what ifs” and “you’re not good enoughs” start to play hockey in our brain. It is proven that doubting yourself physically weakens you. But how do we battle back against the doubts? How do we hold on to the confidence and quiet our minds?
There are thousands, if not millions, of people studying this around the world. Meditation, affirmations, and visualizations all help, but I would be amazed to meet a person in the world who has not had a fleeting thought of doubt cast a shadow over their lives, if only for a brief second. It seems to be part of the human condition.
So, how do I help my goalies become more confident, successful young women when I struggle with the same issues in different circumstances? I guess my role as coach is not to be perfect, but to guide the girls to discover their inner confidence and strategies for coping with doubt and pressure. It is helping them find their mental rituals to calm the monkeys when times get tough and to keep composure and believe in the themselves. And to hope that the lessons transcend well beyond the lacrosse field.
But if you are going to doubt something, doubt your limits. We cannot imagine how powerful we actually are.