I usually blog about skiing and acvtivities in the Eastern Sierra, but as I watched this unfold yesterday, I saw how it relates directly to our skiing performance on the mountain. So who am I to write about tennis?
Well in my younger days I spent a lot of time practicing tennis with my Dad and brother. So much so that I won first place in the Newport Beach (a big tennis city at the time) for the 9-12 year olds, when I was only 9 years old.
This was quite a feat because the older players were much taller than I was, and had a tremendous advantage on their serve especially.
But what I saw yesterday as I watched Roger Federer play Novak Djokovic was a classic “choke” in any sport. Federer was up 2 sets, and was in control of the tough match. He was outplaying Djokovic, and had to win only 1 more set to advance to the finals. Then something happened.
The momentum switched, and suddenly it was Djokovic that was out playing Federer. So what happened? Did Federer lose his mental toughness?
Did Federer get injured?
Was it a strength issue where Djokovic began hitting the ball harder?
The answer to all the questions above is “NO”. So what was it that caused this twist of fate that kills the results of so many professional athletes?
I can tell you from personal experience and studying this phenomenon that there was only one thing that prevented Roger Federer from winning that match. He began to use his conscious mind to play tennis.
I’ve had experiences doing the same thing in tennis and other sports, until I learned the secret to outstanding sports performances. I have been way ahead on points in matches with my brother and friends, only to lose the match by choking. The secret to not choking is to distract your conscious mind so that your subconscious mind can take over directing your body’s movements.
I had a friend, Mike Doughty, with whom I played tennis a lot in high school. We would have points where we were both hitting the ball so hard I thought the cover was going to come off the ball.
What would usually happen was I would get up about 5 games to his 1 or 2, and I would need only 1 more game to win the set. At that point I would get cautious, and begin to consciously direct my thoughts and movements.
But it is impossible to consciously direct your body to do every movement of any sport, so you begin to miss shots you should have made, and you begin to choke the game and match away.
Then I discovered an amazing book called, “Inner Tennis” by Timothy Gallwey. It described this problem of choking, its’ causes, and how to prevent it from ever occurring again. I’m not going to tell you what’s in the book because he does a better job of explaining it that I can.
What I can tell you about is my results of applying his technique for using my subconscious, the larger part of your brain, for excellence in athletics. Once I read and understood the principles outlined in Inner Tennis, I beat Mike Doughty so badly, so many times, he quit playing tennis with me. I never lost to him again.
I was a very active surfer who was beginning to enter competitions about the same time. So I began using my new skill at using my subconscious mind to excel in sports. At the surf contest for rankings on the Newport Harbor High School surf team my junior year, I placed second overall in a very competitive field. I believe I beat better surfers that day because I had the mental edge no one else had.
I now apply that same knowledge to continue to improve at snow skiing every year, even though I am 53 years old. Last year I was jumping off the cornice into Climax, a double-diamond run at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort I used to avoid only 2 years earlier. Skiing is another sport where it is impossible to consciuosly direct your body to do every movement as fast as it will have to do them to accomplish a thrilling run.
Have you ever had a run skiing where you felt like everyting went right, and you could have won a gold in the Olympics? Then you were skiing in your subconscious mind.
By understanding what Timothy Gallywey wrote in his books, “Inner Tennis, Inner Skiing, Inner Golf, and The Inner Game of Work” you can perform your athletics at the highest level, have the best results, and stop the frustrating and self-depricating commands of your conscious mind.
For a better understand of this concept, I highly recommend reading at least one of Timothy Gallwey’s books on “the Inner Game”. It will forever change your performance, your results, and the thrill you will feel when you are participating in any sport.
There are some exciting developments coming for Mammoth Ski Club, so stay tuned. Only 59 more days until the lifts begin turning on November 10th! Big announcements coming!