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Performance Anxiety Part 1

My husband and I both love disc golf.  It's something that we both started together as beginners together so it became "our" thing to do as a couple.  We eventually got to the point after playing for a few years that I wanted to attempt playing in a disc golf tournament.  He was a bit more hesitant than me but I insisted, arguing that it would be a fun way to really test our skills.

I've written a few posts before about how playing disc golf taught me the value of muscle memory.  But during our first few tournaments we both quickly discovered a whole new category of unexplored skills: performing under pressure.  To be blunt, we both stunk.

As a musician, I was no stranger to performing.  I've lost count of how many solo/orchestra/chamber performances I've done.  Before that first tournament I had assumed that performance anxiety wouldn't affect me because of said experience.  I was just going out there to have fun, right?

Well, I was.  But the thing I hadn't counted on was the tournament environment.  Having fun was important but suddenly I also wanted to win!  I couldn't just play anymore, I had to be better than the other people in my division.  In trying to be better I became very focused not only on my game but also in watching how the others were doing.

"Well she just missed that putt so if I can make this crazy long putt right now, I'll gain a stroke on her."

I feel that it's very natural for this kind of mentality to surface in a competitive environment.  After all, the point of competition is to win, right?  But you can see how the thought process becomes toxic.  I was not only putting pressure on myself to perform beyond my abilities but I was also judging my abilities against other people rather than what I had actually accomplished during my own casual play.  If I only make 20 foot putts 1 out of every 15 shots during casual play, odds are good that I am going to miss the shot during a tournament.

But because I wanted to win missing the shot caused frustration.  This frustration led to more missed shots.


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