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Execution or Results: Which Do You Think About During Competition?

Every young boy dreams about it at some time. You grow up rooting for your home team playing in the backyard or at the local school’s ball field. It’s the bottom of the ninth in the World Series, your team is losing and you are coming up with your chance to win the game for your team. Do you hit the home run or strike out? Which did you picture yourself doing? We all know by now, what David Freese did for the St. Louis Cardinals. Freese grew up in the St. Louis area as a Cardinal fan and ended up getting drafted by the San Diego Padres. However, as a minor leaguer, he was traded to the Cardinals for his boyhood hero, Jim Edmonds. Freese progressed through the Cardinal minor leagues and ended up playing third base for the major league team this season. The Cardinals completed a miraculous season by making the playoffs as the Wild Card team and making it to the World Series. The Cardinals were losing 3-2 as they played game six in St. Louis. They were down 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning with Freese at the plate. With the count at 2 and 2, Freese was one strike away from losing the game and the series to Texas. But…. Instead of striking out, he hit a two run single to tie the game. And even better, in the 11th inning, he hit the game winning home run. The next day in game seven, he hit a two run double in his first at bat to tie the game at two to two. So, how did he do it? How was he able to overcome what could be considered incredible pressure to perform and not choke in these situations? As I mentioned, Freese grew up in the St. Louis area and could have easily given in to the pressure. But he didn’t. After game six, he was asked in an interview what he was thinking about when he came up in the bottom of the ninth. The interviewer asked him about the pressure of the situation, but Freese stated he wasn’t thinking about that or the score. All he was thinking about was making a good swing and making contact. And he stated that he was thinking the same thing when he came up in the 11th inning. He wasn’t focusing on results, he was thinking about executing. I have found that this type of mentality is what many great athletes are thinking about when the pressure is on. They have the ability to focus on their job, not on the “What Ifs”. In my 30 years of work as a sport psychologist, this has become one of the biggest differences between succeeding and failing. If you are focusing on the score or what happens if… then your concentration is not on what you need to do to succeed. Your focus is more on the end result. We all play sports to be successful, not to fail. If you can challenge yourself to focus on execution, not matter what the score, or what time of the game, you will have a greater chance to succeed. Just ask David Freese.

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