When you train to be calm, you train to be confident.
As an athlete you train 3 things:
- Your skill
- Your body
- Your mind
A great Yogi ism by Berra is that “90% of the game is half mental.”
We know how important the mental aspect of sport is and we know that the more mentally tough athlete will win when it matters most. The most elite athletes have figured out this new wave of competing and know that once they’ve reached their physical potential the game is strictly mental. Generating your power and unlocking the most potential you have comes from opening your mind, slowing down, and seeing clearly.
“If you take twenty athletes of equal ability and give ten of them mental training, they will OUTPERFORM the ten who received no mental training every time.” – Gary Mack
So, what does it mean to slow down? Slowing down means becoming more mindful and seeing things for what they truly are. Being completely in the present moment.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness can be understood through 2 main components:
- Awareness: Thoughts -> Emotions -> Physical Body -> Outcome.
Becoming self aware increases peak performance by becoming aware of the thoughts we are thinking first, which results in our actions and results in the outcome. This is crucial as an athlete with balancing emotions, pressure, physical sensations, etc. When an athlete can become more self aware they can notice the thoughts that are coming in and interpret the signals accurately. That athlete can slow down and make critical decisions in a fast paced environment.
- Wisdom – The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
By becoming more intune with the now and the present play at hand, an athlete can make better judgements. The ability to instantly forget about the past play and not think about the next play coming up is an absolutely present and engaged athlete who sees their role clearly. They can focus on themselves and not react based on their emotions.
Actions follow our thoughts. So, don’t look where you don’t want to go.
It is important for athletes to be focused on seeing the present play at hand and their essential role rather than being focused on what they DO NOT want to happen. This is the key to playing present.
- Harmful Thinking: “Just don’t lose.”
- Focused on avoiding failure
- Prepping the body to tense up
- Beneficial Thinking: “Tall through the middle phase and finish with form.”
- Calm and Confident
- Focused on approaching success with action plan
- Telling the body exactly what to do
We have to train mindfulness just like we train the body through repetitions of particular ways of thinking. The “slow athlete” is the athlete that trains their mind to overcome their brain.
What is the difference between competing with our mind instead of our brain?
Example: You’re in competition and your opponent has been on a winning streak the past few weeks. You get on the track and suddenly you feel “pressure.” Your muscles tense up, your heart is racing, you doubt yourself and don’t feel prepared anymore.
This is your brain taking over! You are perceiving this situation through fear and instincts. Fight or flight mode kicks in and suddenly you don’t have control over yourself. You start to feel anxious in competition + paired with a negative thought + the physical sensations take over = leaving you to underperform.
The athlete that slows down is the athlete that is in control of their thoughts and emotions. They see their sport from a different perspective and don’t fear the signals their bodies are sending them but accept them to recognize they are ready. They operate on a level of higher thinking with an open mind and don’t operate at the level of fear. They are able to slow the race or game down in their mind to make critical decisions and stay physically relaxed. They execute their performance. They don’t overthink or try too hard or change up their routines. They trust in their training and breathe into the present moment.
GRITTINESS . DETERMINATION . CONFIDENCE.
These can all be developed by first being vulnerable and open with your self awareness. To become the EXCEPTIONAL athlete you have to compete by being connected with your mind – through awareness.
The moment you become a mindful athlete is the moment you’ll realize that your negative thoughts and emotions are just fixed patterns and habits preventing you from reaching your highest potential. You’ve created a false perception of YOU. You fooled yourself! But slowing down helps you see clearly and rebuild your true athletic identity, of who you are, and will elevate your performance!