A USA Today article once again underscored not just the importance of your mental game but that it is a difference maker. Talking about a young phenom snowboarder (Ayumu Hirano), “If you want to look at him and other great riders at a similar age, he’s far ahead of them,” said Ben Boyd, one of Hirano’s coaches at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. “He’s just far ahead of them. And it’s not just riding. It’s his mental approach to snowboarding. It’s not getting flustered, just having the ability to perform under pressure.”
Indeed the ability to maintain emotional control is a key characteristic of mental toughness. Getting upset at judges, referees and officials is a waste of time. They aren’t going to change their mind based on the fact that you are upset and disagree with their call or score. Emotional control when an opponent scores; you make an error; or aren’t playing up to par; or you lose are also pitfalls that the mentally tough athlete do not succumb to.
So, what exactly are you trying to accomplish by reacting?
Let’s be clear that these scenarios can be upsetting. But your ability to maintain emotional control, focusing on the task at hand – your current performance in the current play – is a hallmark of mentally tough and resilient athletes. After all – that is all you control.
The article also highlights another mental game aspect: “Unlike American riders who have endured years of losing to (Shaun) White, Hirano is unafraid to say he’d like to surpass the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist.” Feeling fear or intimidation from your competition is the antithesis of confidence. Fear inhibits performance.
The article goes on to relate someone suggesting to another pro rider that he could compete at the same level as the superstar of the sport Shaun White but only if he’d been built a private half-pipe as White’s sponsors have done with him twice. This pro rider however admitted that he doesn’t have the same focus White does but that Hirano did.
That response shows the real difference for athletes. It’s not about better training facilities, more equipment, more technical coaches, mindless hours of practice, and sponsorships. It is about a laser-like focus that keeps you always working towards your goals. It’s the laser-like focus that gets you through workouts you may not enjoy or want to do but need to do to perfect your performance. It’s the laser-like focus that keeps an athlete focused on controlling the controllables – that’s you and your performance.
It appears that Hirano gets it. The good news is that anyone can learn how to eliminate fears, control emotions and have proper focus. Drop me a line if you want to learn how or sign up for one of my mental toughness seminars.