TALENT IS GOD-GIVEN; BE HUMBLE. FAME IS MAN-GIVEN; BE THANKFUL. CONCEIT IS SELF-GIVEN; BE CAREFUL.
Once an athlete finds herself having a peak performance, she will want to stay there as long as possible. Unfortunately, inherent pitfalls are waiting for her at every turn, trying to bring her back “down to earth.” While she is in the zone, she is, by definition, extremely confident. This confidence is good. However, it is easy for her to to become overconfident at this point. When she is confident, she is tempted to think that she can do no wrong. She seems invincible, but if she is smart, she knows she is not. When she goes over the edge and becomes overconfident, she actually believes that the game is easy or that she is in some way invincible. Reality will bite her in the backside for this mistake, usually sooner rather than later.
YOU EXPECT SUCCESS. YOU RESPECT FAILURE.
-GREG NORMAN, GOLFER
The overconfident softball player makes assumptions and loses her edge. A hitter swings at everything, the fielder forgets to watch the ball into her glove, or the pitcher assumes that this pitch with two outs and nobody on and the nine-hole hitter up 1s less important than other pitches. It is appropriate for the pitcher to have confidence that she can have a 1-2-3 inning, for the fielder to expect to catch the ball, or for the hitter to expect to hit it hard, but there is a limit. Knowing where that delicate balance lies is a tightrope act. With humility and alertness, awareness of how to avoid a bad fall can be acquired. It is all part of her learning process for approaching potential.
WHEN YOU'RE ON TOP OF YOUR GAME, YOU DON'T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED.
-SAMMY SOSA, BASEBALL PLAYER
While searching for the balance of appropriate aggressiveness, an athlete can help maintain a peak performance by excusing mistakes as part of the normal process of learning her boundaries. The hitter's poor swing decision, swinging at a ball or a pitcher's pitch with less than two strikes was bound to happen at some point, so she should not let that mistake bother her. She should certainly learn and adjust, but if she is bothered, she is likely to lose that zoned-in feeling. The emphasis of the mistake in her self-talk creates a feeling of concern, which is the opposite of the feeling she has when she is in the zone. Instead, she should maintain the fantastic, confident attitude that brought her to this point by focusing on what she learned and all the things she is doing correctly. Ultimately, she wants to maximize confidence – more is always better- without becoming cocky. She achieves this by respecting the difficulty of the game of softball.
THE KEY FOR KEEPING SUPER HIGH CONFIDENCE FROM EVER BECOMING COCKINESS IS RESPECT FOR THE GAME. IT IS NEVER EASY TO DO YOUR BEST TO CARE BUT NOT TOO MUCH
Olympian Scott Hamilton said he learned to approach his “most important” performances with “refined indifference.” This was his form of freeing himself from any worry about outcomes. With the hard work of preparation successfully completed, an athlete can enjoy those moments of high competition and have an intention. She knows what she wants to do, and she knows she is controlling everything she can, thus maximizing her chances for positive outcomes. She does not need to wait for these outcomes to occur to feel like a success because she defines success as Coach Wooden did: the peace of mind that comes from knowing she did her best. She is successful because of her process, not because of the outcomes that her behaviors lead to. She is detached, intentionally, from worries about the outcome. This perspective is the “green light” balance that some athletes struggle mightily to find.
Developing refined indifference or intentional detachment, like all mental skills, can be practiced. The athlete must get away from expectations. Avoiding the words “should” and “supposed to” is a great start. Then she might say, “I don't care” over and over. She could add phrases to make sentences like “I don't care what my dad thinks” or “I don't care about things outside of my control.” She might even get to the rare level of maturity that allows her true freedom from worry: “I don't care what happens in the game as long as I earn the peace of mind that comes from giving my best effort.”
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU STARTED THE SEASON OR, AFTER A LONG LAYOFF FROM THE GAME, RESUMED GOLFING BY SH0011NG A SCORE THAT WAS BETTER THAN EXPECTED? -SAM SNEAD, GOLFER
|Aaron Weintraub holds a B.A. from Emory University (1993) and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia (2000). He served as an assistant baseball coach for 13 years before starting www.CoachTraub.com, a consulting business whose mission is to over-deliver value on goods and services designed to help you win the mental side of the game. He works with teams and individuals, adding clarity to help them get what they want for their sport. CoachTraub.com also runs camps and clinics and has an online store.Weintraub is the author of Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game (Coaches Choice, 2009) and An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills (self-published, 2011). He lives in The Colony, TX with his wife, Nicole, and their four children.|
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