Your Signal for High Performance
As a high performance trainer, getting athletes into the Zone is as exhilarating for me as it is for them. That’s because, as a trainer, I have to be in the Zone in order to do it, and it FEELS good. The transition in athletes is amazing and easy for me to see, but they have to feel it.
Recently, after only one training session, a figure skater and her mother returned for a second visit with huge smiles on their faces. Had she won a national championship? No. But, her wide smile and great posture would be her way of carrying herself from now on, on and off the ice. I could see the change the instant she walked through the door into my office. But could she FEEL it?
Some years ago, an athlete’s mother sent me some photos she had taken of her son between skeet shooting stations at the USA Shooting Fall Selection Match. When I’d first met this young man, he had had little confidence and would rarely look at me as we spoke. The picture told a different story. It was taken en route to his winning a berth on the National Development Team. I could see the change in him, but could he FEEL it?
After the GM of a baseball team grew tired of watching his team melt in tight situations, he gave me a call. His skillful and motivated athletes, who were young off-season college players, lacked the maturity and mental toughness of ex-major leaguers they were playing against. They were easily intimidated and looked pitiful whenever they fell behind in a game. In only a couple of workshops, with new confidence fueled by the Zone, they turned an average season into a championship one. I could see the difference, but could they FEEL it?
Being in the Zone is an incredible, on-going, personal, exhilarating experience. It is an emotional and empowering state of mind that is as relevant to a sporting career as it is to a job in medicine. To outsiders you display an incredible sense of confidence. Personally, you just know that you are going to do well. You FEEL it.
FEEL is the first step to getting into the Zone—just like the pros do. It is HOW you know. We know a camcorder is recording by a red light. We know to stop cooking the soft-boiled egg by the ding of the timer. We know the car has enough fuel by the gas gauge. With the Zone, we need a signal as clear as these examples, so we KNOW at the start of our game. If we wait till we are winning, have enough points on the score board, or have that nice pat on the back, we may never get it.
The FEEL is a sensation. We have the FEEL for other things. We know the FEEL when a sneeze is building up. We know the FEEL when an allergy is starting to bother us. We know the FEEL after a cup of very warm cocoa. Each one of these has a FEEL. And now you will learn one for the Zone.
Most of us have experienced the exhilaration of success in some past event. And now we want to identify this FEEL of exhilaration. Most professional golfers know precisely what this FEEL is. They get it before they shoot. If someone snaps a photo or makes a noise, they’ll often step back from the tee to get the FEEL back, before re-addressing the ball. Having a clear FEEL signal sets the stage for pro athletes to be running optimally. It is their bio-feedback machine. If you want what the pros have, here is how to do it:
Take a moment to think about great experiences from your past successful sports activity. See, hear and feel this experience. As you relive this memory notice how you are breathing. Notice your posture. Notice your facial muscles. Most importantly, notice the internal sensations in your chest or abdomen.
Go through the same process with a couple of other successful sports experiences and again notice your internal sensations. Compare your experiences and pick one sensation that is clearly evident in all three experiences. My sensation is a nice warm glow in my chest. Your sensation—the signal of your Zone—can be similar or quite different. Just as you clearly know when to point the camera, eat your egg or fill up your car, your sensation gives you a specific signal that lets you know you are ready for the game or a practice. Learn to identify and know this sensation. It will serve you well as the best bio-feedback device you will ever find.
The Zone signal tells you to “go for it.” With it, as long as you can maintain it, you will be consistent as athletes and better leaders and motivators as coaches. With it, you access all your skills and abilities. The trick is to trust this signal to guide you to the Zone in the face of fierce (intimidating) competition, lousy weather, long tiring practices and irritable people. And it is a lot easier than you might think, especially with the SportExcel program.
And, to answer the opening question, could the athletes FEEL the Zone? Simply, yes, and now you can too.