#TalentPlusSkill #CompetitiveAwareness #Stress #EyesOpen #Awareness #Options #Choices #Lesson #Learn #Athlete #Coaching
|by SHAWN TRAUTMAN|
So many athletes get this piece wrong and, worse, so many more coaches don’t “coach” this kind of thing.
EDIT: to be clear, this isn’t for the average athlete who just wants to learn, have fun & build relationships – I’ve written several pieces about winning and losing as well as coaching. This writing is for the athlete on the verge of breaking through. An athlete who’s got everyone watching him or her and wondering if they’ll actually “get there”. It’s for the athlete who feels like they’re giving it their all but they don’t really know what “it all” means. It’s for the athlete who is often disappointed but thinks they’ve done everything they can and they’re losing hope. Please, if you’re that athlete or know someone who is, take a look at this article and think through what all can be done that’s within your control.
Athletic training is often all about your ‘tangible’ skills and things that can get measured on the field, pitch, court, course, pool, or wherever.
Do you have the tangible skills? You know, the physical and technical capabilities to truly compete? Do you actively seek feedback that allows you to learn and improve? Do you keep track of all numbers (metrics) that can pinpoint what and where focus needs to be while practicing?
Hopefully, the answer to all those above is yes, regardless of your sport. If not, you certainly have some work to do and some learning ahead of you.
But, there’s something else most athletes are not aware of and very few coaches talk about. As your level of “talent” increases, regardless of your “natural talent” starting points, the game changes.
Truth be told, athletic “talent” is a dime a dozen. There’s no shortage of physical specimens who can technically beat others.
But that’s not what will ultimately win in the end.
It’s the athletically talented individual who can fully manage the ‘intangibles’ (emotions, breathing, sleep, nutrition & decision making).
In other words, it’s the importance of our mind, body and spirit that will win in the end.
Being in the present moment. Focusing when needed. Tuning everything else out and being “in the zone”. All are critical, regardless of sport, but they’re near impossible when you’re not well rested. The same goes for when you’re unfocused and have other things on your mind. Your brain doesn’t fire on all cylinders, nor does your body or your mind.
A very similar thing happens when your body is flooded with excess chemicals or foods that it can’t readily process or turn into energy (which drastically affects your endurance). Fast foods, sugars, alcohols, processed foods, oily foods and fried foods all contribute to your body struggling to get the “fuel” it needs to operate at it’s best. I mean, really the phrase “intestinal fortitude” couldn’t be more spot on.
Adequate hydration before, during, and after is also critical. Sugary drinks result in short-term energy bursts, but then leave you feeling drained. In other words, you soon crash. Artificial sweeteners trick your body into believing there are sugars and do the same thing. Drinks high in caffeine (coffees / teas / energy drinks) are diuretics and can rapidly intensify dehydration when an athlete is actively moving during competitive situations. In other words, what you drink, how frequently you drink, and how much you drink matters as you go.
Having a “why” for what you’re doing is also critical. A motivation for being there. If it’s merely to pass time, or because you “have to”, or your parents signed you up without asking, you’ll never truly excel. The motivation can be either external (from a coach, a parent, or a friend) or internal (perhaps a personal goal, a person or team you really want to beat, a state record, etc.). Motivation of some sort results in “Emotional Energy” and many underestimate the power of this type of energy. It can be the deciding factor in a game or a match. It’s what some call having “the will to win”.
Point being, you can train all you want for the physical skill. But, you have to be well balanced and prepared to show up, every day, at your very best. If you’re running late and grab a quick bite to eat at a fast food place on the way to an event, you’ve set yourself up to be less than optimal. If you stay up late at night and binge watch Netflix before a big tournament, you’ll feel the effects “across the board”.
Lack of sleep messes with your entire body. Poor nutrition takes it’s toll. Having no motivation sets you up to not give a crap when you most need one. Being emotionally drained says you’ll have nothing left for the “game”. Forgetting to stay hydrated stops your ability to think clearly and your fluidity dries up, literally.
Every one of these intangible pieces affect your decision making, and make no mistake, decision making is a skill. The information you take in is critical. What to look for is critical. How to adjust is critical. What play to call or club or shot to use or how to adjust your stance or read a pitch or catch a ball or throw someone to the ground. Your decisions can make or break a game. It’s critical.
Competitive sports at any level requires self awareness, and self awareness is not just how you stack up physically or skill-based. It’s all these other factors and knowing that you, as an athlete, are responsible for your own wellbeing.
Most coaches ignore this portion of athletics, and then wonder why their teams didn’t do what they practiced or couldn’t keep their heads in the game. The answers vary. More training. More practices. More game footage. More laps. More yelling.
But, what is it, really?
It just so happens that it may not be a training issue, but rather, it may be a competitive awareness issue. Competitive awareness says you know what you’re up against and you’re aware of all the areas you can control.
You want to be the best you can be? Practice harder than you play. Train hard, but smart. Measure things. Set lots of small goals. Build endurance. Stretch warm, and often. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t fear failures. Stay focused when needed & balanced at all times. Have a reason to be there. Pay attention to your foods. Stay hydrated. Be well rested. Make solid decisions.
Do those things, and you’ve done “all you can do”. Lay it all on the line and you’ve given it 100%. Once you’ve done all these things your pride will shine through. Your self-confidence will glow. Your chances will go up.
And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to get the competitive advantage you’re looking for. The invisible edge that pushes you over the top. The x-factor that determines your destiny.
Truth be told, if you want it bad enough, it’s yours for the taking.
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