Pressure. I've never been very good under pressure. I grew up athletic. My entire life, I love(d) playing sports of any kind. In a neighborhood full of boys, I was never shy about participating in any of the pick up games that came about. Depending on the season, it was always one of the three main sports in the south (at least where I grew up); baseball, basketball, or football. I played all three. In hindsight (such a bitch), I wish I would have actually pursued football a bit more, but because of the fairly obvious gender reasons, I did not (but future Jennifer would have told past Jennifer to sign up and get a helmet and pads, and to start eating). I've always had quick hands and feet, I've always been what most call aggressive (I call it playing to win), and I freaking LOVE studying competition and developing strategy, but I digress.
I was good enough at basketball to play with the middle school team for most of the summer. As mentioned, I've always been fast and aggressive. What I did lack was, uh, finesse. I was a star defensive player. My signature move was to steal the ball and break away. I would make a fast break, pull away from everyone, be all alone at my goal, and BRICK every lay up I attempted. I was also five feet tall. I played with the team all summer, and just before school started, I was told I wouldn't be moving on. I was crushed, but I also inherently knew it was coming.
At this time in my life, I believed that this is just the way I was. I wasn't good at the follow up. I wasn't good at making the basket. I just believed that is who I was. Eternally, almost great.
Softball. I was very good at softball. I was good at both offensive and defense. I started playing when I was eight, and I was started at first base. Quick hands. As I got older, I moved to short stop. There was nothing that could get past me. Growing up, I would beg my father to go out in the yard with me and hit grounders to me. I would ask him to do this after a solid weekend out of town where all I did was play short stop for eight hours a day ( my current powerlifting coaches, Aaron, Wade and my Husband shouldn't feel surprised by this at all). I thought about softball day and night. I loved everything about it, I would sleep in my uniform. I fell in love with this game. While I'm not 100 percent sure, I believe I was the only one (at the time), to hit it over the fence in Mt. Juliet Little League Softball.
I try out for High School Ball. I dominate at try outs and make the team. As a freshman, I get to pinch hit. But they want me bunt??????? What is happening? I am fast, yes, but I can hit the ball. What the hell is happening? I'm no good at bunting. In my mind I'm like, just let me hit the ball and let's move on. I eventually get the chance to start at second base. I am not used to pitchers who are pitching with strategy. I don't know how to handle curve balls, and risers (dude, they fucked me every time), and change ups. When it came to playing defense, second base wasn't exactly the same as short stop when it came to how to play the ball. In short, there was so much more strategy in High School Ball that I was quite unaccustomed to. I lacked so much grooming as a player with potential. I don't like to blame coaching, because after all, this is #poweryourown, but at this time in my life, I could have really used a coach that believed in my potential. I *knew I wasn't good under pressure, and my high school softball career was exasperating it.
I was cut my sophomore year. At that time, it was the most devastating thing that could have happened to me. It literally took my life away. From the time that I was eight years old, all I thought was the game of softball. I should have been BETTER. I should have tried harder. I should have been more pursuant about how to get better. I should have studied harder on how to bunt. I should have sought out help on how to make my throw better. I should have competed at a higher level to understand pitching strategies. Now, I'm sitting here in my coach's office, and he is telling me my life is over. It was in that moment that I decided I would NEVER rely on anyone to fulfill my potential ever again.
So, from here, the majority of my athletic career is over. I tried out again but didn't make it. I have some babies on down the line. Quite honestly, it was my decision to have these babies naturally (without drugs and pain relievers) that awakened this part of me that had been asleep for so long. This part of me that desires competition, that desires overcoming self doubt, the part of me that desires being better than I believed I was at the time.
After my second child is born, I decide I would like some of my shape back. I had gotten really thin and I prefer the curvy back road rather that the straight and narrow interstate as far as physiques go. My husband had been doing Crossfit, and I decide to give it a whirl. I love competing and I love winning so Crossfit really seemed like a great fit to me. Shortly after doing that, I do a push/pull and never look back.
I knew going into powerlifting, that I had loads of potential. I also knew my background and that I didn't deal well with pressure. My first few meets, I most certainly under performed. I never lifted well in meets and I always lifted way more in the gym. I was always so nervous on meet day, I just couldn't get it together when it mattered.
This was very frustrating for me. I have mentioned in quite possibly every blog I have written, an article by Dr. Mike Israetel on the process of training, and how to rely on the process. I hate to be so repetitive but this article was quite a pivotal moment in my career.
I am a person that requires evidence, and if it's anecdotal, that works even better. This article gave me something to work for. It inspired the idea that even if I suck at high pressure situations, I could pull out at the end if I did the work.
From here, I realize that performing under pressure is a skill I can ACQUIRE. I may have been born with these genetics that make me so nervous that I buckle under pressure and leave every ounce of potential I have in the mind of myself. However, I have learned to overcome that.
I know that come meet day, I will be super hella nervous. I know that my brain will not function like it does in the gym. I know that I will forget everything I have done up until this point. I know that weird shit will happen with unracks, and commands, and rack heights, and white lights, and red lights, and starting on time, on flights, and passports, and visas, and hotels, and meals, and water, and literally everything else in world.
What I can tell you is that I DON'T CARE. I have reached a point where performing under pressure is a skill that I have pursued. I have researched it and I have beat it into the ground. I may seem like a crazy person on meet day because I can't speak to anyone or direct my attention outside of myself AT ALL, but what I can do is perform. I can perform because I decided to. Not because I am a person that naturally trusts the process or naturally excels under pressure. I have learned to do that.
My intention in this post is to inspire those of you that may feel like nerves get the best of you come meet day. You can overcome it. You must be intentional about overcoming it. Read about it. Practice it, everyday. It is a skill that you can pursue. It requires trust and practice, but most importantly, self belief. Which is SKILL that you can acquire if you practice it daily.