The biggest problem with being successful is thinking that you are too good. I have seen it a lot, mostly when I was an athlete at the U of I. There were a couple years when we were damn good, and we knew it. We tended to sometimes rise to the level of our competition, or should I say drop. There were meets where we barely beat the worst team in the conference or even the country because we thought it was a done deal before we even stepped on the floor.
There is a difference between being confident and over confident. But the line between the two can be blurred and sometimes there might be no way to know the difference. Like I have said before great athletes know they are good, but immature or cocky athletes believe that they are owed the win. I think in 2004 when we had won the Big Ten championships and the NCAA championships were being hosted by the U of I, we felt we were owed that championship. The last time the U of I had won back in 1989 they had first won the Big Ten championships, and were hosting the NCAA championships. We felt it was fate, and that the planets had aligned for us. We were lucky to come out of the weekend still on the podium.
That year, we never had the Big Ten Championships as our goal, the goal was the NCAAs. But we let our guard down. When an athlete peaks it can be very difficult to hold that peak for long. I think a mental peak can be the hardest thing of all. My senior year I wanted to do well at Big Tens, once it was over it was like I was a completely untrained athlete. Everything was hard to do, nothing felt right, and I had the worst NCAA championships of my career. If you feel that you have achieved your goal your mind will shut down. And when the mind is gone, so is the body.
That is my biggest fear now for my team. They had a great weekend qualifying all our athletes to the regional championships and winning a large number of individual medals and winning the level 9 team championships. For the level 9s and 10s their biggest goal of the year has to be their National Championships. (about 5-6 weeks from now) But what if I created a mental peak with putting so much emphasis on the state meet? The mood in the gym is really fun right now, the kids are happy, the skills seem to be coming easier. But is that what we need? I fear that there is not enough pressure, that I am not pushing hard enough. I don't want to have any regrets at the end of this season, and I want the girls to be amazing. This is a new area that I have entered though. It is a better problem to have than being a losing coach, but I still don't want to let them down.