Momentum

Momentum is a fascinating aspect of sports. Sports fans have all witnessed major momentum changes during a contest that have had a significant impact on the outcome of the game. Several years ago, I was attending a BYU vs. Utah basketball game in the Marriott Center. The arena was packed in anticipation of this great game. The Utes jumped out to an early lead and built on it throughout the first half. The stunned crowd sat silently and watched their team fall behind by 21-points. The Utah fans were ecstatic with their team’s performance and made it known to those who wore their Cougar Blue.

I am an optimist and have learned through the years that crazy comebacks are possible in sports. My son was not so hopeful. At halftime, I told him that BYU could still win if they got off to a good start in the second half and got the crowd back into the game. The coaches made some good adjustments, the players executed their game plan, and the team started to chip into the almost insurmountable lead. Finally, with 5-minutes to go in the game BYU had evened the score and the crowd noise nearly blew the roof off of the Marriott Center. The Cougars took the lead a few possessions later and miraculously won the game to the delight of almost everyone in attendance.

How are such momentum changes possible? First of all, it comes down to a belief that winning is still possible. Coaches and players need to stay positive, encourage one another, and stick together. Second, game time adjustments may need to be made. You can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. Adjustments to the game plan and proper execution of that game plan is crucial. Often times, a return to fundamentals and keeping things simple needs to be re-emphasized. Third, you need to focus on the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t control. A great question to ask yourself is, “What can I do right here…right now to get myself back into this game?” Fourth, you must focus on and celebrate the little successes along the way. Success leads to confidence and confidence leads to future success.

Gaining and changing momentum is something that athletes and teams can learn to control. There is no substitute for good preparation. Entering a game ready to play makes all the difference. Being properly activated, in a good emotional state, and focused on the task at hand will help you get off to a good start. Remaining committed to a good game plan is also important. Also, athletes must learn to expect and accept that momentum swings are part of the game. This can help you maintain your poise when your opponent gets on a roll and everything seems to be going against you. Through good emotional management at these critical parts of the contest, you will be able to think through the adjustments you need to make and then execute effectively.

Strategies to Control Momentum

  • Good preparation
  • Effective game planning
  • Return to basics by focusing on fundamentals and keeping things simple
  • Expecting and accepting that momentum swings are part of the game
  • Maintaining poise when faced with challenge or adversity
  • Controlling the pace
  • Staying positive with yourself and others
  • Controlling the controllables which are attitude, effort, and focus
  • Celebrate the little successes along the way and let them build your confidence