1w6k1b99tnjW5qLK9QKgJCiG0NE The SportExcel Zone: Zone Signal

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Zone Signal

When I watch sports, one look at the posture of the players on the bench often tells me whether they are winning—upright posture—or losing—slumped posture. The Game runs their lives instead of the players running The Game. The Game is like a two-year old, throwing tantrums one minute and smiling at you the next. So, how come athletes let this happen? Because they think it is normal.

Well it isn’t normal and we need to control the game by controlling ourselves. We all have clear signals that tell us that we are in the Zone or not. And we can learn these signals and use them to guide us and prevent The Game from taking over.

Try this exercise: Imagine yourself at a busy intersection. The traffic light is red. GO THROUGH! If you are like most people, you feel a sensation that says, “DANGER, STOP, LOOK OUT!” An internal “gut” reaction tells you that it is unsafe. We all get this same kind of feeling in competition. It represents weakness, lack of skill, frustrated thinking, etc., and the game will run us unless we fix it.

Put yourself back at the traffic light. Now it turns green. GO THROUGH! You probably feel an entirely different sensation, one that says, “THIS IS OKAY.” You relax and feel at ease. This is our Zone feeling and it represents strength, skillfulness and clarity of thinking. We need this feeling at the start of our game—all game—and we need to get it back when we lose it, no matter what the score.

I worked with a high school volleyball team, and shortly after our workshop an opposing coach videotaped them in a tournament. The reason—she could not tell by their behavior whether they had lost or won a point. She wanted to use them as an example for her team as to how to stay in the Zone throughout the game—every volley.

Many athletes and teams expect that they can get this kind of Zone by building a winning score or healthy lead. Wrong. If you wait for it to happen, The Game will run you. And when it does, look out, it’ll be some kind of tantrum. Instead, learn your Zone signal, and you’ll be the one in charge.

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