Playing nervous

A couple days ago, I played in a championship game for one of my leagues. It was a big game for us, since we’ve been to the championship two times before, and we have never been able to take home the chip. Going through the layup lines, all of us felt an extra sense of urgency, stamina, and seriousness to play well and finally win something bigger than ourselves and our team. Teams shook hands, found our spots on midcourt, and the ball went up for the tip.

The game was awful. The final score was 35-25, the lowest score our team has ever put up in the season. Unfortunately, we were on the losing end, not being able to pull out the win yet again. I’ve been here before, and every time the feeling is the same. You play nervous, anxious, and out of your element. It ultimately leads to a situation where you stop taking risks and think about all your moves before you even make them.

You forget the basics. How to play proper defense, how to dribble the ball, everything. Maybe it’s because we are not clutch when it counts, but simple things like dribbling the ball seem like the hardest thing when you are playing nervous and trying to not fuck up a play.

Each turnover gets magnified. Of course, in any game, turnovers are bad but in a championship game, your head hangs a little lower when you or a teammate turns the ball over. You get a little more frustrated which ultimately leads to more turnovers. Vicious cycle.

Someone else will be Superman. You have written yourself as not being able to contribute, as much as you want to. You can’t score, you play terrible defense, and all you can do is sit on the bench and watch. There is a tiny hope that someone else on the team will pick up the slack. You’re “go-to guy” who normally comes through in the clutch is also locked up. With no one to go to, you constantly hope someone will start scoring even though deep down you know there isn’t a player on the team that can break out on a run.

Losing is one thing, but to experience the loss with anxiousness and nervousness magnifies the loss even more. The next day all I could think about was the loss and what things I did wrong. I hate when these games take a toll on my mental well-being at work, but I can’t help it. Luckily Thanksgiving was around the corner and I stuffed my face to bandage the wounds.

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