In sports it’s often said that we use 90 percent mental and only 10 percent physical, but we constantly train to perform very specific movements in the games we play. Our ability to perform those tasks can be perfected over time when performed in a vacuum yet something quite different happens when those same tasks are performed in a pressure situation. The muscles tense, we sweat a bit more and our mind start racing. It’s in these moments that winners and losers are made. These are the moments that many professionals are training their mind to deal with. To stop the mind from racing and keep focused on the task at hand.
This state of focus is called mindfulness and it gives people the ability to zero in on the moment and stay in a state of “flow.” Flow has been described as a feeling of being completely in the moment and is linked to enhanced performance. As Dr. Kristen Race, Ph.D. states, “Mindfulness helps train the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that creates a calm and alert state of mind, which helps us stay focused, avoid distraction and perform at our best.” She says, “It’s one of the best ways to calm the stress response in the brain.” Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation and many of the top sports figures have been using it for years to keep calm under pressure.
Koby Bryant Talks Mediation
Kobe Bryant is an 18 year NBA veteran, winner of 5 NBA Championships and league MVP. His prowess on the court is solidified as one the great the game has ever seen. In a poll of N.B.A. general managers: “Who do you want to have the ball if the game is on the line?” Kobe won 10 years in a row. With so many pressure filled situations, Koby understood early on that with so much talent on the floor on any given night focus would be determining factor between winning and losing. As Kobe put it, “I was 21. And I dived right into meditation. I always knew the game carried a deeper meaning, more than X’s and O’s and strategy.”
Mindfulness and Tennis with Novak Djokovic
The 29 year old Serbian tennis superstar has won 11 Grand Slam tournaments. His success has solidified him at the top of the game. At the 2013 Wimbledon Tennis Championship, Novak Djokovic was asked about his annual visit to the Buddhist center in the Wimbledon tennis village he says, “It’s very calm and quiet, obviously. I stay in a house which is very nearby. This is a place which we all visit. We like Wimbledon and London in general because there’s so many beautiful parks and nature, places which you can call getaways, where during these two weeks of a hectic Grand Slam atmosphere that goes around, so many people, obviously there is huge amount of pressure and stress and everything involved, so you need to have a place where you know you can switch off and recharge our batteries.”
Pressure Packed Poker with Scott Seiver
Scott Seiver is only the 9th player in GPI history to be ranked #1. His World Series of Poker bracelet win came back in 2008 where he won $755,891. In a recent interview with 888Poker.com, Seiver discussed the mental edge needed to win at the highest levels of poker. “So much of the game at the highest level comes down to fractional decisions. If you are angry, or upset, or your head is elsewhere while you are playing, you are going to make a bad decision. And that one decision may take you from being the best player in the tournament to the 15th best. It’s all about trying to keep a clear mind, focus and ensure you have a balance between work and the rest of your life while trying to reduce stress. All of these things come out on a poker table, and you have to try to avoid them at all costs.”
We grow up wanting to be the best at our chosen profession. Some of us end up in an office while others on a field of play. For sports figures, the pressure can be overwhelming and the stakes high. Those who have nurtured the mental aspect of their game as much as the physical have found themselves at the top.