How to Handle Pressure
In youth sports, it’s important for your young athletes to trust their intuition and focus on play. In an interview with Mohammed Almarzouq, 27, from Saudi Arabia, a multi-year American Ninja Warrior competitor and coach at Skyhook Ninja Fitness, we discussed how having a playful attitude helped him compete.
“The first time I was on American Ninja Warrior, it was the first big competition I had ever been a part of in my life. When I got to the stage, a producer said ‘Okay remember, this is on TV, people are watching!’ It threw me off, and I almost had no focus from there on,” says Almarzouq. He says he was eliminated early, making a silly mistake from feeling too much pressure in the moment.
“When the producer said that, it made me nervous. I was already trying to push the cameras and everyone watching out of my mind, but then he said it and it all came back and I felt lost. I felt like my body was moving by itself.”
When he was distracted by the people watching, he lost his sense of play as well as his confidence. He became consumed with distracting thoughts about what he would look like competing instead of being able to focus on the moment at hand.
“I think if I were able to focus properly, I would have totally crushed that qualifying round,” says Almarzouq.
When the “Grownup Child” (his ninja name) appeared again on the show, he embraced playfulness, having a friend carry him on the stage while he pretended to drink out of a baby bottle.
“The second time I was on, I was much better. I was in a playing mode. The other ninjas encouraged me to just play, not stress, and I did – I had a lot of fun playing,” He competed much better the second time around, and took the lesson with him when he made it back home.
“Now, when I work teaching kids about being ninja warriors, I tell them to let go and just have fun and trust your body. Remember to play,” he says. “I always feel like there is a part of me that just wants to play. Even in serious situations, I always look to try to find the fun in it and be playful.”
Listen to the full interview here:
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Nearly every athlete struggles with some form of perfectionism or fear of failure.
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