It’s that time of year again. Let the madness begin! The NCAA March Madness, that is.
Die hard basketball fans, sports lovers, and non-sports fanatics who just enjoy a good time will be glued to their TVs, tablets, and phones this month to keep up with the action. While this tournament is fun, suspenseful, exciting, or heartbreaking to us fans, it’s all of the above for players – but also so much more.
Competing in the tournament can be stressful for players.
Here are the top three mental obstacles collegiate student-athletes in the tournament have to contend with.
1. Balancing being a student and an athlete
It’s not as glamorous as it seems. These student-athletes are just that… students and athletes. That means that while they’re away trying to focus on playing well, representing their team and their school, and winning, they also have to keep up with school work. Their classmates are back at school attending classes and living their normal daily lives while these student-athletes are attending team study halls in hotel conference rooms, meeting with advisors, doing homework on buses and planes, and sitting for proctored exams in hotel lobbies. Talk about needing to find a balance. Athletes need to be able to focus on the task at hand in that moment in order to excel in both academics and athletics while they compete in the tournament.
2. Playing out of their comfort zones
It feels great to play in your own house, so to speak. That home court provides a sense of comfort and confidence. And it certainly helps that you don’t have to travel far. None of that exists for athletes in the tournament. They have to contend with being off their routines. They’re traveling – sometimes very long distances – not sleeping in their own beds, and likely needing to adapt quickly to a new schedule for sleeping, waking, practicing, and competing. Of course, none of this is insurmountable, and experiences with this throughout the regular season certainly help. Athletes need to rely on aspects of their routine they can control (like their physical and mental warm up) to help them feel prepared, composed, and confident.
3. Competing under immense pressure
Last week we talked about staying cool under pressure, and that can’t be understated. Players competing in March Madness are playing games – that are nationally televised – in front of huge, rowdy crowds. Millions of people across the country will be rooting for them to win (or lose) and might have a lot riding on them if they have them in their brackets. This, along with the obstacles we outlined above, equal a lot of pressure. Besides the bragging rights of making it far in the tournament and especially being crowned the champion, success in the tournament has meaning for the team’s overall program. Just think; what young player wouldn’t want to be recruited to the team that just won March Madness? And how many people will be following your next season if you show up and impress during the tournament? In times of pressure like this, it’s important for athletes to focus on the process, stick with their routines, and trust their training.
Tune in today to see how they do! And don’t forget to fill out your bracket!