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I had the honor of interviewing Kelley O’Hara, a 2-time World Cup champion as well as an Olympic gold and bronze medal holder.
Mo asked Kelley:
“How do you prepare for high-stakes games? I think there is an analog there for high-stakes business meetings.”
“The best example of this in my world is our preparation with set pieces leading into the World Cup. It’s a part of the game people probably know about, but don’t understand. It’s really the only time in soccer where there are specific roles for each player in this specific time, whether it’s a free kick, corner kick, even throw-in, or goal kick.
We used to only apply them to certain set pieces, but then we would identify times in the game where we said, “This is a set piece. This is where we can know specifically what we need to do.” Everyone has a role.
We went over set pieces for more hours than I can even tell you. To the point where we would say, ”Again? We are doing this again?” And I was reading this book leading up to the World Cup called The Power of Habit. I realized once I read it and got to the World Cup, we did incredibly well on set pieces. We only let up one goal on a set piece, which is pretty unheard of in a World Cup.
And I remember being in the World Cup and thinking, “It all makes sense.” Our coaches made us practice set pieces so much to the point where we could have done them in our sleep, and it was completely automatic. There was no thinking, there was just doing and executing.
It seems simple, but to me, this is the only team, and really the only 4-year lead-up to a specific tournament where our set pieces were so incredibly fine-tuned because of the hours that we put in.
I think the coaches actually tracked how many hours they allotted to practice time to do that, and it really is true, there is something to be said about just being able to execute and not think. Especially if you think about the World Cup, it is the most high-stakes, the most nervous you’ll ever be for a game, and the most intense pressure, and then just being able to just do exactly what you need to do and not thinking, but just doing, there’s something to be said about that.
“So many people think, “I’ll appear to be inauthentic if I am robotic or rehearsed because I practiced something.” When you prepare for something to such an extent, you can do it in your sleep like you were talking about.
It doesn’t mean you have to do it that way if a better path appears in front of you. You can deviate if you need to, but the fact that you memorized a certain play, makes you even stronger when a little tweak happens and you take advantage of it.”
Dive deeper into the conversation with Kelley O’Hara here.
Preparing for high-stakes games is very similar to preparing for important business development meetings. When you prepare for something to the point where you can do it in your sleep, you actually become even stronger in adapting to a new circumstance or variable.
Every time you practice your skill, whether athletics or business-related, get feedback that answers these two questions: What’s one thing to keep? What’s one thing you would change about what I did?
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