Today I wanted to write about a recent experience I had returning to being an athlete for a weekend, and what I experienced that many athletes I work with experience and how I maneuvered through it. Over the president’s long weekend I played in a hockey tournament in Anaheim. It was a wonderful reminder of what my clients feel leading up to a competition.
As I prepared myself for the tournament I knew given that my body and mind had not been through this type of experience in a while I needed to be well prepared. I made sure to meditate and do other mindful activities more regularly, I got extra body work and talked to my Naturopath about things I should take over the weekend to make sure I stayed well hydrated, and maintained the energy and stamina needed for at least 3 games, possibly 5. While I was taking care of my body and mind, it did not stop me from stressing a little and needing to constantly bring myself back to the present moment. For me I stressed, because I needed to get a bunch of stuff done prior to the weekend, and felt time pressure that I usually don’t feel, other than sometimes before vacations. There was that feeling that I didn’t have enough time and that my week and days were different simply because I was going to be in a tournament. I caught myself thinking I needed to do things differently during the week. In reality nothing was different, but my mind tricked me into thinking there was a difference.
What got me through the week, and not becoming too stressed was the knowledge of what was occurring and continually bringing myself back to the moment I was in and knowing all I could control and focus on was what was right in front of me. I had to continually become detached from what my mind was trying to tell me.
When the tournament started I also had to use many techniques I have talked to my clients about using. One of these things was a need to change my routine before playing hockey. Usually I have a bunch of exercises I do before a game, and do them a certain amount of time before the start, but since the tournament was in Anaheim and we were traveling back and forth from San Diego each day I had to amend when I did the exercises and tell myself that the change wouldn’t matter. Not only did I have to do that with the exercises but just in general, as everything looked different each day and the time we played was different, so someone like me who loves routines I had to continually adapt and change how my pre-game routine looked. This is something I tell my clients all the time, that it is important to have a pre-game routine but you must also be adaptable so you can change things if needed and not worry about the change.
One of the other things I experience was needing to maintain a level of calm and composure during the games. Hockey is an emotional and aggressive sport, and playing with guys a lot of that type of energy is present. There was a game we had to win and we were tied with a minute left, as I stepped onto the ice I was aware of how calm I was and just knew we could pull it out. We ended up scoring with 16 seconds left to win the game.
The difference between athletes who consistently perform and those who have trouble, is not that the consistent performers don’t feel the same emotions and feelings as the inconsistent performers, it is that they choose to move beyond them. It is not something that is learned over night. I am in my early thirties and I can still have moments, but I have put in a number of years focusing on my self development, so that I can move beyond those moments and perform the way I want. You have to put just as much if not more time and energy into developing yourself so you can be the athlete you want to be, than the physical elements of your sport.
To learn more about my experience as an athlete and how I got to where I am today listen to this radio interview.