In my recent high performance workshop in Edmonton for Olympic level shooters, one of the participants gave me an interesting look after my introduction to my high performance model. I asked her what the look was for, and she said that what I was presenting was a huge paradigm shift. I agreed.
A Paradigm Shift
One’s thinking about high performance will be quite different after my workshop. No longer will you have the notion that you must first set goals, positively accept feedback and be confident. The claim has been that by doing these things–just as pros and Olympians have been observed to do–you will succeed (and maybe even get into the Zone). Simply, this notion is backwards.
In my 20 years of working with athletes and coaches, I have run into very few, if any athletes that have gotten this model to work. And most have gone from workshop to workshop, book to book, and are still mired in doubt and inconsistency, no matter how many goals they set, no matter how much they tell themselves to accept defeat as a learning experience, no matter how much they learn to breathe and center themselves, etc.
The reason for this is that true success comes from somewhere else. Elite athletes succeeded because they got the Zone first–by luck, hard work or early successes–and learned how to maintain and nurture it.
Kids in the Zone
I’m going to ask you to watch a couple of videos of high performance kids. Plug into YOUTUBE and watch “Four-year old playing drums” or “Brazilian baby dancing the samba”. In both cases you’ll see very young children in the Zone with no notion of goals, feedback or strategies. They display the kind of incredible joy that all athletes would love to have and all coaches would love to have in their athletes.
That joy is the byproduct of many things, loving audience, empowering parents, exceptional modelling ability, coordinated athletic ability, strength, etc. And the more they get this joy, the better they exercise the “brain” to acquire more of it.
If you think that the stress, pressure and intimidating nature of most games makes acquiring this kind of joy unlikely, you are right, at least with respect to the vast majority of athletes.
Instead, we need to look to the great athletes such as Nicklaus, Jordan and Gretzky to find examples where it was a regular occurrence under every conceivable condition. They had the Zone first; plain and simple, just like the YOUTUBE kids. All the rest came easily after, if not automatically.
The great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, was quoted as saying: “The only way a kid is going to practice is if it’s total fun for him… and it was for me.” Some call it fun; some call it passion; some call it a paradigm shift; at SportExcel we call it the Zone.