Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whether They Agree Or Not

Growing up as an athlete, I was taught, and instinctively believed, that 100% intensity and focus should be applied to everything we attempt.

I've always had high expectations for myself, and as a coach, have these same expectations for my students. If you want to be truly great at anything, being committed to sacrifice, no excuses, and a willingness to do what they're not, is critical for success. To separate from the pack means to do more, sometimes do it differently, but always work harder than your opponents.

This can be difficult for some to understand, as it often feels and sounds a bit "cut throat." Many view this type of intensity and sacrifice as unnecessary for success, and damaging to self. By definition, sacrifice means to give up in order to receive. Sometimes, we may have to let go of the things we wish to hold onto the tightest. This is how we separate - knowing most won't sacrifice what's needed to achieve their goals.

I recently shared my opinion on a few professional athletes, expressing my disappointment with their mental toughness. Some agreed with my assessment, but many didn't. Those who disagreed believed I was either too hard on them, or just flat-out didn't think I knew what I was talking about. I respect and appreciate all opinions, but what I DO know is competition at a national level, and pressure strong enough to make you gag on your own breathe. I've felt it, many times overcoming, and other times falling victim. Now, I study this sometimes paralyzing pressure full time, teaching how to react positively and confidently to it's affects.

When I'm assessing an athlete, whether a student or opponent, I instinctively look into their eyes, looking for an intensity that can hardly be described. It's a look that shows no fear, and an arrogance that believes they will succeed no matter what obstacles arise. When the great ones are at their highest peak of concentration, their eyes can burn a hole through you, and all peripheral vision becomes non existent. Pressure situations makes these hyper-focused athletes perform at a higher level ... they actually want and need the pressure to excel.

I was critical of a few professional athletes because I didn't believe they showed this intense focus on a regular basis, which has resulted in far too few championships. I don't know whether it's because they haven't been taught, or simply choose to believe it's not important enough, but something's not clicking for them under pressure. I tend to compare all athletes, professional or not, to the two greatest of all time: Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. They were on top of the "mental food chain," and are still the best examples of how to take your game to another level when pressure is at it's most extreme.

You don't have to be a pro athlete to give the same effort and attention to your craft. Be willing to sacrifice and become totally dedicated to propelling your skill past your competition. Work harder and longer than THEY do.

Teachers, never be afraid to voice your concern if you believe more can be done where less is currently taking over. It's my opinion that more can always be achieved, and we shouldn't ever, ever settle for less! Push past comfort zones, and help others fight through theirs... whether they agree or not.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm An Illusion

My name is Fear, and I dominate you. I control your every thought, and manipulate your daily actions. Because of me, you're unable to move forward towards your goals. Actually, due to my hold on you, you don't even set many goals. You view short term failure as guaranteed long term failure.

I have you handcuffed to the type of thinking that keeps you stationary - often times moving, but always standing still. My name is Fear, and I make sure you think of me the moment you awaken until the second you fall asleep. Many nights are filled with dreams of me, unable to find a way out of my grasp. I make you believe you don't have any control over your future. I hold you to a truth that, in reality, is a lie. I own you ... or so you believe.

Because of me, you view new experiences as opportunities to fall, unable to step past comfort zones. It's these comfort zones that I use against you. I make you believe that outside your natural comfort awaits insecurity and eventual failure. I am Fear, and you are holding on tight. We have a love / hate relationship. You know, deep down, I'm holding you back, yet you still love my familiarity. Fear is a crazy thing, isn't it. I make you feel comfort, knowing you're too weak to take a leap of faith.

I paralyze you to the point of giving up. You want more, but don't know how to pry my fingers from your wrists. Maybe you try once in awhile, but I've grown strong. My strength comes from your inability to fight. You quit, I win.

Thank goodness you don't understand I'm an illusion. I'm the power of your imagination. The same way you've allowed me to own your actions is, ironically, the way you'll get rid of me. My name is Fear. Do you believe in me?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let Them Live

"I am not a role model." -Charles Barkley

In my opinion, he's half correct. Off the basketball court he wasn't, but on, he definitely was! Kids watched him in person and on television, and all they knew was how he reacted to challenges, treated the fans, and how hard he worked during games. This is what they knew, so for this, he was their role model in that small part of their lives. Off the court is a different story. The internet and media make us think we know these athletes, but we know nothing about them, their personalities, how they treat their family, and their moral beliefs.

My Twitter account has been blowing up about Tiger Woods, the media's unfair bashing of him, and the fans' relentless attacks on his personal life. And recently, more allegations of Tiger's use of Human Growth Hormone has sparked talk about whether or not he's "who we think he is." @GolfSchott, specifically, has been passionate about his defense of Tiger, believing the media has unfairly targeted his off course mistakes, and haven't given him a break, allowing any forgiving to take place. (I hope Brad doesn't mind me using his handle, but he's been very articulate and open about his beliefs... and I greatly respect his opinion. Thanks, Brad).

Tiger Woods is not a role model off the course, and never should be considered one. When my 2 year old daughter is old enough to understand his amazing physical gifts on course, we will discuss THAT part of his game in detail. I'll teach her the importance of his work ethic, mental toughness, and his ability to never settle for less. This is what's important to me, as a teacher and father, not his choices off the course. Again, we don't know him as a man, we only know him as a golfer ... perhaps the best of all time. Now, if the HGH rumors are ever proven to be true, I'll be forced to adjust that talk with my daughter, as it directly affects his on course play, in one way or another. @GolfSchott and I have debated how it affected Tiger's  performance, but the bottom line, in my opinion: He's an on-course role model, it's cheating, and he should be judged harshly if he has ever taken these drugs.

I'm not here to prosecute Tiger, only to make it clear that my belief is simple: We, as fans and parents need to understand that all professional athletes are human beings, living their lives, and making mistakes, just as we do. The media has made us believe they aren't human, they shouldn't make mistakes, and when they do, we shouldn't forgive them. We definitely should forgive, but more importantly, we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking we need to know every detail of these people's lives. Watch them on t.v., cheer when they do well, and let them live!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Are You Waiting For?!

Mentally grab ahold of what you want.

Mentally know that it will happen, and you'll do whatever it takes.

Mentally create fearlessness and a hunger unmatched.

Mentally allow yourself to fail, knowing it's the only way to succeed.

Take it!

Mentally climb. Climb higher. Keep climbing. Never stop.

Mentally punch out any negative thoughts that attempt to handcuff your progress.

Mentally fight, and love the sweat building as you battle. 

Mentally wipe away the inevitable frustration that shows it's face along the way.

Take it!

Mentally ignore all nay-sayers.

Mentally know and believe without evidence.

Mentally laugh at those who critique your passion, knowing it's only jealousy they spew.

Mentally never doubt your abilities.

Take it! 

Take it, dammit!

What are you waiting for?!

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's A Delicate Balance

Know your strengths, develop them into weapons, but also be aware of when they're turning into weaknesses!

My biggest strengths are my aggression and my intensity. I've learned through years of competing, the more aggressive competitor wins a higher percentage of the time. I've developed the ability to take this aggression to another, more explosive level when needed. I always feel I can "out-aggress" my opponents under pressure, which in the long run, gives me a huge advantage over them. This aggression, if not watched carefully, can backfire and turn into recklessness. I must be aware of when I'm crossing this thin line, and be able to reel it in. This is a skill set in itself, but knowing how to achieve this delicate balance can be the difference between achieving my goals, or falling short.

Since I was very young, I've had the ability to become super intense and take focus to the extreme. During competition, these qualities can be huge weapons, especially during pressure packed moments. I'm able to quiet my body and mind to the point where I have complete tunnel vision. I, literally, can't see or hear anything in my peripheral. I only see my target, and mentally calculate the best way of getting there. This process is best achieved when I focus all my attention inward, leaving many opponents viewing me as cocky or arrogant. When I'm competing at my best, I don't talk, and especially never give compliments. Compliments make my opponents feel comfortable... why would I ever want them feeling comfortable?! During highly competitive situations, these are my biggest weapons, creating instant advantages, BUT become weaknesses outside the competitive arena. If I'm not careful, this focused intensity can turn into solitude and selfishness.

We must fully understand our strengths, and the potential they have to turn into major weapons, all while being hyper aware of when they begin turning against us. While you're competing, never be afraid to take these qualities to the maximum level. Attempting to stretch past your normal comfort zone is the only way to achieve greatness!