A question of consistency

Jonathan Novak

When an athlete makes the decision to play sports, they are not in for a steady ride.   One game you might win, the next game you lose. It’s all part of the sporting experience.

However, for unknown reasons, an athlete can have the best game of their life one day, and just a few days later their worst.

Harry Nevins (’18), Captain of the varsity boys soccer team, believes soccer is his “passion.” Although Nevins understands that there are uncontrollable factors that lead to a bad performance, he believes it mainly depends on preparation. “Preparation is a big part of [playing well]. Getting a good night’s rest, eating the right meals, going in with the right mindset,” he said.  

Nevins feels that after a poor performance, he naturally focuses on the negatives when reflecting on the match. By focusing on the negatives, this can lead Nevins to a more pessimistic mindset when going about the rest of his day.  “When I lose a game and I have to reflect on it for quite a bit, I’ll have to watch the game tape, talk with teammates about what we could have done better which can take up some time and kind of influence my mindset by spending more time on thinking about the negatives,” Nevins said. “That can make you upset and distract you from your studies in a way.”

Although it can be problematic to think about what went wrong, Nevins believes he can’t let the negatives of a performance affect him. “That’s also something that is one of the great questions which is, how do you not let it get to you?” he said.

Lauren Brantley (’20), a member of the ASL varsity swimming team, believes that it’s important to move on after a subpar performance, and seeks support from others to do so. “My parents are very supportive. They don’t try to make me feel bad if I don’t swim well and same with my coach,” she said.  “It makes it easy for me to just get over it.”

Both Nevins and Brantley don’t feel they have slumps in form; they believe it is slightly more random. “I wouldn’t categorize it into periods of good performance and bad but focus when [the bad] happens,” Nevins said.

Varsity baseball player Jake Perelmuter (’18), believes that during the season he can be “streaky.” In contrast to Nevins and Brantley, he believes that there are periods of time where he is playing well and others where he isn’t. “I’ll have some days or weeks when I’m on my game and some days or weeks when I’m off my game,” Perelmuter said.

Playing poorly can affect Perelmuter outside of the world of sport as well as inside. “It upsets you in the moment when you’re playing the sport but definitely also outside because you think about it a lot when you’re doing other stuff,” Perelmuter said. “It could lead to worse performance in school or social issues just by being in the back of your mind. It can affect you greatly.”

Nevins says that although a bad performance usually stays in his mind, it doesn’t affect him in school. “Let’s say I have a class with one of my teammates and there’s a low period in the class, I might comment and say, ‘if only we could have won yesterday, it could have been so different’ but it doesn’t stay on my mind and won’t get off topic from the actual learning from that moment,” he said.

On the other hand, superstitions can be a way for athletes to achieve consistency. However athletes feel differently about having them. Perelmuter believes they are fun to have but aren’t necessarily beneficial. “It’s such a trivial thing that you know doesn’t really affect your game but you still like to have,” he said. “When I go up to bat I do the same routine… It’s less of a superstitious thing and more of having a routine, it gets you in the zone.”

Nevins feels superstitions are important to the point where if he forgets to do a pre-match ritual, it can affect his performance. “There are things where I will feel that I have to do before a game, during a game and leading up to it, and if I don’t, it can linger in the back of my mind for a few minutes but it goes away,” he said.

Although an athlete tries to do all they are capable of to win, it isn’t always easy. So much time and effort can go into preparation for a poorly executed performance. But, it is an athlete’s job to do whatever they can to be their best even if it’s uncontrollable. “It’s hard to stay consistent throughout the whole season because no matter how good you are you always have your off days,” Perelmuter said.