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

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