For the last few weeks my team has been meeting with a sports psychologist as part of our training program. The psychologist, Luke Brosterhous, has a fair amount of experience working with skiers (given that he lives in Steamboat). As an athlete he was actually a PGA tour golfer. It might seem a little odd to have a golfer coaching ski jumpers, but the two sports really have a lot in common. Golf and ski jumping movements are too short to really think about, both are simple in theory, but require complete composure to execute consistently. In short, this guy knows his stuff - and comes off more as professor or doctor than a "shrink".
The first session started off with concentration exercises - basically a form of meditation. All you have to do is sit and think about nothing but your breathing, but it's not at all easy for a guy like me. From this base of mental training, we moved into imagery. Any athlete can benefit from this, but in a sport like ski jumping, when you can only practice the movement a handful of times a day, imagery can be a huge tool. I also like to use imagery to practice pacing and pushing the limits on the XC side.
Luke talked about a study where the researchers looked at interviews of superior athletes after winning championships, looking for the key mental state for success. I would have thought that it would be confidence or determination, but the feelings that the athletes spoke of most was gratitude. Those that were simply happy to get the chance to compete, to show others there best, were able to outperform their competitors.
To help establish this state of mind, Luke gave us a pre-competition perspective exercise. For this, we imagine ourselves training and competing, and slowly pull back our mind's view until we were looking down from space, seeing millions, billions of people just trying to find water, food to eat, or a way to earn money. The idea is not to diminish our hard work, but to feel grateful for the opportunities that we have.
Last week, Luke told a story from when he taught golf in India a number of years ago. While walking to the course everyday, a couple local boys started to follow him. He could tell that they were pretty poor kids, but couldn't communicate with them much. A few times he let play with his clubs as he walked. One day, no one else was going to be at the golf club, so he asked the kids if they wanted to come in and hit some balls for a bit. They looked at him as if he had just asked them to go to the moon, and actually teared a little as he brought them in. At the time, Luke wasn't really sure how to react - it was only golfing, but these kids were absolutely overjoyed to spend an hour in a driving range. I know I certainly wouldn't be that excited about it, and when I think about it, everyday I take hundreds of things for granted that these kids may never experience.
Where am I?