The “Game”

Published on Mar 29, 2018

Every pro in every sport knows that there are ‘good days’ when everything goes right and there are ‘bad days’ when all is misery and failure. We have all heard of, and most likely experienced, being “off your game”.

What does this mean and why does it occur?

Way back yonder in the dark ages when I was in college I played and excelled at nearly every sport. I was also darn good in the outdoors and was an avid hunter and fisherman. I learned the ways of the critters and became one.

But it was golf that I truly loved and excelled at far beyond just being “really good at it”. It was golf that paid for my college education and it was golf that taught me all about being “on your game” and “off your game”. I have finally come to realize that this same principle applies to every endeavor.

It doesn’t matter if you are hunting, fishing, playing golf, baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or water polo - every time you compete, every cast, every swing of the bat, every throw of the ball, every shot at the hoop, every swat with the stick, every swing of the club has an impact on how the “game” will go that day. Some days you are invincible. When you do things that shouldn’t work, they do. When you make a mistake, it doesn’t hurt you. Even when you make a bad decision it works out for the best.

And then there are those days when, no matter what you do, it turns out all wrong. The best decisions, made from the most logical viewpoint possible, not only fail but fail miserably. The best swing, the best shot, the best throw, the best cast all turn out to be errantly directed with negative and sometimes disastrous results. No matter what you do, it just isn’t going to work out.

Competitors that learn to recognize this “on or off your game” phenomenon not only save themselves a lot of unnecessary stress, but they also learn to roll with punches, make the best of it, and move on to the next day. And sometimes, wonderful things happen. It is from these very situations that the great comebacks, the charges, the incredible come-from-behind last minute victories that we all live for come from. It is the stuff of legends.

Competitors that learn to recognize their “game” are the cream of the crop, the true professionals, who always seem to be at the top of their game. It’s all about adapting to the “game” phenomenon. It is all about recognizing this unconscious pattern and using it to obtain the best results possible on that day. No ne really knows why or how this “game” thing happens but it does. Maybe it’s what you had for supper the night before. Maybe it’s the moon and the stars and gravity. Maybe it’s any number of things but it is very real and can be very destructive.

On a bad day, a pro that understands this “game” thing will not try to over-compensate. He will not get angry when his best efforts continually fall short. He will not press harder and make things worse. He will be patient and just very gently tweak the edges of his performance to get every possible benefit out of a day that is obviously going to be “off” from his usual performance. Then, hopefully, the next day of competition is one of those days when everything goes exactly as it should and his performance is once again stellar.

There’s no real solution other than recognition, patience, perseverance, and a stubborn belief in your own abilities. Bad days come, and bad days go. It is your belief in yourself that must be the constant.

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