Defense Mechanisms

Competition can be stressful. With all the pressure, you will surely feel nervous. Your opponent may be very challenging. Trying to win may make you mentally and physically tired. Your mistakes may be frustrating you. Together, all of this can put a lot of stress on you and your ego. It is uncomfortable. You may want to release the stress and return to your comfort zone. Many athletes do this by using defense mechanisms unconsciously. Here are some examples of defense mechanisms. Most of them consist of excuse making, giving up, and choosing lower goals over higher goals. All of this causes you to play worse.


Situation
thoughts/emotions
Defense mechanism
result
Losing to an underdog
This is embarrassing. This makes me look so bad.
Tanks, gives up, doesn’t try anymore.
This gives you an excuse for losing. You lost only because you weren’t trying. This protects your ego and makes you feel better.
Since you gave up and became less motivated, you will play worse and most likely lose.
Losing
I’m playing bad. This must not be my day. I’m not having a good day. My opponent must be having a good day.
Gives you an excuse for losing. You lost because you simply were having a bad day.
Decreased motivation so you give less effort and play worse.
Losing
I don’t really want to win anyways. I just want to relax and have fun.
Lowering expectations gives you an excuse to play worse. Lowered expectations are easier to meet so you can remain satisfied.
Decreased motivation, give less effort, and play worse.
Losing
Gets very angry.
Anger masks the pain/stress of competition. You would rather be angry than uncomfortable.
Plays too aggressive and makes stupid mistakes.
Losing
Being in denial. I’m not playing that bad. I’m not getting destroyed.
Being too confident and denying the fact that you’re losing and playing bad prevents having to deal with the stress of trying to make changes to play better.
Decreased effort. Failure to make schematic adjustments.


Defense mechanisms are tricks that your mind plays on you to protect your ego. Sometimes this is good and healthy, but for sports, you should choose peak performance and winning over feeling comfortable. Choose higher goals over lower goals. Defense mechanisms are common but you need to recognize them when they appear, resist the temptation, and stay determined to keep playing hard. Knowing beforehand what defense mechanisms are and preparing for them can help. Tell yourself before a game “If I begin losing, I will not tank just to give myself an excuse for losing. I will give my best effort no matter what. No excuses.”

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