Peter Benedict, St. Andrews Graduate and Sports Trainer Asks: Is Your Head in the Zone?
Peter Benedict, a St. Andrews College graduate who now works as a professional sports trainer, has been working with professional athletes for years. In his line of work, he knows that much of what happens during training depends on the athlete too, not just on the trainer. Whether the day’s workout will be successful (‘successful’ is quite an ambiguous term in sports training) or not will largely depend on two things: the dynamics between the trainer and athlete, and the athlete’s mental focus. With that said, Peter would like to share his thoughts on mental preparedness in sports and sports training.
Sports commentators have uttered it in disbelief so many times; “What’s going on with so and so? His head is just not in the game.” Whatever the sport, whoever the opponent is, and no matter how physically fit the athlete is, when his or her head is just not in the zone, commentators and fans speculating about losing the game to the opposing team is quite an accurate prediction. You see, nothing is more paralyzing and debilitating than losing focus and mental clarity in the middle of an intense, career-defining game. We’ve seen it numerous times before, an athlete choking at the last minute, missing what could have been a winning shot or move and subsequently giving the game to their opponent; which brings me to my point: in sports, mental training is just as important as physical training.
Before I start each session with my clients, the first thing I would ask them is if they’re ready for the day’s workout. And by ‘ready’, they know that I was referring to their mental focus and determination to complete the day’s workout routines as best they could. If you feel too lazy to move, or you’re a little sluggish during early morning workouts, that’s perfectly fine. After a few warm-up stretches, they would already feel a little energized, and by the end of the first routine, they’re pumped-up and ready for more.
But when, after the stretches and first routine, I see that they’re still not performing up to par (by then I would already know their capacity and their usual output), I stop the training and ask them what’s going on inside their head. I know something is up when they look distracted or seem to ‘fade’ in the middle of a routine, or if they hardly ever pay attention to what I’m saying. They have zoned out and gone to a different mental plane, is what I like to say. And no amount of physical exertion can get them back in the zone, so to speak. I sit them down and ask what is bothering them. Those who know me will not find this unusual. I’ve always had the inclination to help others which is why I got into sports training in the first place.
If, after the talk, the athlete still seems distracted or unable to focus, I call it a day. I see no point in pushing the athlete to the point of physical exertion when their heart and mind isn’t in it. Yes, I am a strict trainer but I am compassionate too. The overall wellbeing of my clients is topmost in my list of priorities, and this covers mental wellbeing too.
In my next post, I will be talking about steps that you can do to mentally prepare for training and sports so please watch out for that.
Stay tuned to this page to read more from Peter Benedict of St. Andrews College.