Recently, cognitive science and performance expert, Sian Beilock sent me a copy of her new book, “Choke.”
People choke all the time, in sports and life. Below are some anti-choke techniques that Beilock recommends.
1. Distract yourself—Sing a song or even thinking about your pinky toe as Jack Nicklaus was rumored to do can help prevent the prefrontal cortex from regulating too closely movement that should run outside awareness.
2. Don’t slow down—Don’t give yourself too much time to think and to control your highly practiced putt, free throw, or penalty kick. Just do it.
3. Practice under stress—Practicing under the exact conditions you will face in a do-or-die situation is exactly what is needed to perform your best when the stress is on. Get used to the pressure so competition is not something you fear. Also, by understanding when pressure happens, you can create situations that will maximize the stress in your opponents.
4. Don’t dwell—Take that past performance and change how you think about it. See your failures as a chance to learn how to perform better in the future.
5. Focus on the outcome, not the mechanics—Focusing on the goal, where the ball will land in the net, helps cue your practiced motor programs to run flawlessly.
6. Find a key word—A one-word mantra (such as smooth during a golf stroke) can keep you focused on the end result rather than the step-by-step processes of performance.
7. Focus on the positive—Don’t be helpless. If you focus on the negative this can make you feel out of control and increase the likelihood that you will not work as hard to obtain future performance goals.
8. Cure the yips by changing your grip—An alteration in your performance technique reprograms the circuits you need to execute your shot, hopefully clearing your brain and body of the motor hiccup.
Thank you, Sian.
Director of Mental Conditioning
Monroe Sports Center
Yesterday, I talked about one of my she-roes, my mother.
Today, I want to talk about another one of my she-roes, the great Rayna DuBose (ABOVE at the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore with yours truly).
For those of you who complain about the little things in life, after reading today’s message, there’s a good chance you will never complain again.
From Rayna’s website:
What started as a dream in 2001 quickly turned into a disaster for Rayna DuBose, a highly recruited student who was granted a full athletic scholarship to play Division I Women’s Basketball at Virginia Tech. Rayna entered Virginia Tech in 2001 as a part of the women’s team which was in the Big East Conference at the time. By the time April 2002 had approached, Rayna was struck with a deadly bacterial disease known as meningococcal meningitis, which then led to 96 days in the UVA Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, with collapsed organs, non-functioning kidneys which had her on dialysis, in a coma, liver problems and worst of all no blood circulation to her hands. She was a vegetable fighting for her life. Soon enough the day came when all four of her limbs were amputated and she became a bi-lateral amputee.
After the pain, therapy and what seemed like torture, Rayna returned back to Virginia Tech in the summer of 2003 to return to her normal college life as if nothing had ever happened. With a year off from school in 2002 she still remained active, taking on-line classes and staying a part of the Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball team by serving as a Student Assistant Coach, still traveling and being a part of the team. In 2003 she received the Most Courageous Award at the Men’s Final Four in New Orleans. In 2005 she received the Wilma Rudolph Award. She was also given the 2009 National Ethnic Coalition Organization Congressional Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and was the 2009 McDonalds Athlete of the Day for the Military Paralympics. Rayna has also made appearances on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, CBS Sports, the CBS Early Show, Cayman Islands news, and local news stations. Just recently completed the USA a2 sitting volleyball training camp.
I caught up with my inspirational friend earlier today on Facebook (Yes, she uses Facebook—in fact Rayna and I text all the time).
The first time I met Rayna, I asked her what she did first thing in the morning.
She said, “Put on my arms and legs.”
Anyone feel like complaining about the fact that it’s “Monday”?!?
Today, Rayna told me, you have to appreciate what you have because you never know what can happen. She has actually said that becoming an amputee was the best thing that ever happened to her because now she is helping others.
DuBose also said that the secret to life is to love yourself. I like that.
I asked Rayna if she thought anything was possible.
“EVERYTHING is possible depending on how bad you want it and how hard you will work for it.”
That’s mental toughness.
Rayna does not feel that she is handicapped. It just takes her a little longer to do some things. She even drives when she goes out with her friends!
Sports and life is not about what happens to us, it’s all about how we respond.
So the next time you feel like complaining or feel that you can’t do something, remember Rayna’s words.
Mental blocks are common in all sports, at all levels. I have seen beginners and professionals get stuck on the six-inch playing field between their ears. Perhaps they are a baseball player, who, all of a sudden can’t throw the ball to first base. Maybe it’s a diver who can’t do a flip.
Physically, nothing is wrong, but mentally they can’t get out of their head…yet.
Slumps happen when an athlete is thinking about the wrong thing at the wrong time.
During competition, an athlete should focus less on the internal (negative thoughts) and focus more on the external (target, form, etc).
The beauty of focusing on the external is that your brain cannot think about your target/form and negative thougths at the same time.
So the next time you have a mental block, accept it and re-focus on the things you can control (your effort, body language and strategy). I think you will be pleased at the results.
And if it doesn’t help right away, stick with it.
Because if you don’t quit, you can’t fail.
Today’s message is especially dedicated to the great Hollie Holcombe.
Earlier today, I spoke to about 40 young basketball players at Nick DiPillo’s Spring Break Skills Camp. A key point I brought up was that failure was inevitable. Everyone fails. It’s part of the process.
Michael Jordan got cut from his basketball team in high school, but he didn’t give up.
Thomas Edison failed over 10,000 times when trying to invent the lightbulb.
Babe Ruth hit the most home runs, but he also had the most strikeouts. And each time The Babe failed, he said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
How does this relate to you? Let me put it to you this way…
A SETBACK IS A SETUP FOR A COMEBACK.
Bounce back today!
Well here I am back in good ole New Jersey, and as wonderful a time I had on my honeymoon in Hawaii, it’s great to be back. I love traveling, but there’s something I love even more—real life.
Most people “live” for their vacations.
Most people “can’t wait” until the weekend.
Why is that?
1. Many people don’t do what they love.
2. Many people don’t cultivate gratitude for what they already have.
3. Many people don’t think success in sports and life is possible.
Some say that I am successful.
I don’t look at myself that way. I look at myself who is doing what he is passionate about, truly wants to make a difference in the world, and believes that anything is possible.
Did you know I failed out of college—twice?!?
Anything is possible if you believe you can achieve. All you have to do is start taking the correct action.
It’s not too late to be what you might have been.
Here is a brief, but great video I did with gold medal skier, Lindsey Vonn…listen to EVERY word she says…
Recently, I gave some advice to a young friend of mine, Madison (above). She had a test in school the next day and I told her to just relax while taking it and give it her all. Well, I saw Madison yesterday and asked her how her test went. Her response was, “I got a 100!”
We all want to achieve greatness, but the problem is we often put too much pressure on the results.
The best way to get the best results is…
Not worrying about the results!
Focus instead on staying loose and concentrating on the task at hand.
If you put the time in studying (or practicing), you are ready. Trust the work you put in, take a deep breath and go for it.
When you focus on HOW you can perform well, instead of IF you can perform well, your world changes. Your results change.
Too many people worry about what parents will think or what friends will think…if they perform poorly. This is a recipe for disaster. Don’t worry about the past or the future…the power is in the present. The best performers in the world from athletes to students to business owners, know the secret.
Relax and go all out!
One question at a time. One point at at time. One meeting at a time.
Gandhi put it best…
“Full effort is full victory.”
Thank you, Madison, for reminding me of this very important lesson and inspiring me to be better at everything that I do!