Sunday, January 30, 2011

Athletes in the Zone - Reality or Myth?

I coached athletics for more than 33 years. During that time, I saw some unbelievable performances by many athletes. Many of the athletes involved in these performances claimed that they were in "the zone."

 However, because of the small athletic stage available, only those in attendance were able to see these. Many of the greatest stars in sports, players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre and Wayne Gretzky, have reported experiencing this state of mind while playing.

The Athletic Zone is a state of mind where time slows and mental focus is absolute. It is a combination of physical exertion and mental focus, usually occurring in those individuals participating in sports, that require mental fortitude. It is an extraordinary state of mind, that places you in a mediative state of being. You are void of distraction or disruption from others around you. Even your own mental clutter can't can't affect the way you perform.

Does this state of mind really exist or is it just a myth? If it is for real, can anyone from any walk of life enter this zone? Imagine a business employee, entering this zone at work. Imagine a math professor, working on an important equation. Being in "the zone' could be very beneficial to these type of individuals, when it comes to production.

Robb Wolf is a sports nutritionist. He feels that diet plays a very important part in reaching the zone. He believes in the (40/30/30) percent of calories from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This is called the zone diet. Wolf claims that no scientific studies have ever been done on athletes that are in the zone. However, there has been studies on the zone diet. The zone diet deals mainly with a low carbohydrate diet.

This would mean that diet plays a major factor in both physical and mental performance. It is assumed that the zone begins with a mental state of mind. From there, it expands to other areas of an athletes awareness, including performance and skill execution. It also affects decision making in times of stress and confusion.

Probably the best example, that I have ever witnessed, is that of Michael Jordan's performance in the playoffs. Jordan, suffering from the flu, had a temperature of 103 degrees plus. During the 1997 playoffs, Jordan put on a remarkable performance scoring 38 points against the Utah Jazz in game five.

During this game, he was unusually quiet verbally. His mental focus was exceeding that of anytime he played. You can view highlights of his performance at a YouTube sight.

The answer to my original question is that we recognize the zone, but no scientific studies have ever been done. It appears to exist, but there is no proof.

 Bill Hinks

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Zen of Football-USA Today

Headline news in USA Today: "The Zen of Football"

Front page of the Sports Section- Rodgers: "Foreseeing is Believing".

In this article, Green Bay Packers Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers talks about the power of visualization. He credits his daily mental practice in helping the Packers reach the post season - and for pounding the Atlanta Falcons, the #1 seed, 48-21 last weekend.

Rodgers says he learned how to visualize from a coach, which he was in 6th grade. He also says most of the big plays he made in the upset victory over Atlanta, he pictured in his imagination first.

It’s amazing to me that this story is headline news in today’s world. You would think with all the information available on the power of your creative imagination that this would not be in the news. After all, how many great athletes don't visualize in one form or another. Some use self-hypnosis. Some visualize while lying down. Some while sitting. I even teach people to do it while standing still or moving.

No matter how you visualize though, it won’t work unless your practice creates what Dr. Maxwell Maltz called "The Winning Feeling."

Many people visualize but don’t feel anything. This is a red flag that something they are doing is wrong. Visualization without a change of emotion isn’t the proper use of your creative imagination.

I believe the more powerful approach to mind training is to change the feelings before you visualize. This can be accomplished thru deep breathing alone - or through stillness or through movements that integrate the breath.

E-motion stands for energy movement. It's great to sit or lie still and picture what you want. But it's much more effective to train your mind like a fighter who shadow boxes an imaginary foe.

Shadow boxing is just a term to describe a practice used by top salespeople, speakers, golfers as well as surgeons.

Don't just picture yourself doing the thing. Go through the motions as you picture it - and FEEL it.

Matt Furley