At a time where psychological preparation is a must for sports and performance specialists, I was intrigued to find that the GB Men’s Rowing team didn’t rely on sports psychologists to prepare for the Olympics in 2012. Jurgen Grobler the chief coach for the men’s team believes the planned preparation he gives the teams qualifies them to be 100% in the zone for racing at elite level and of course the Olympics.
Of course the squad of elite athletes are existing within a ‘bubble’. Quite rightly, these elite athletes devote their days to training and pushing their bodies to extremes. The payback is that they don’t have to worry about day to day issues. Within their bubble, the head coach is able to create a strategy for mind and body preparation for major races. Within the squad there is serious competition for each place in the boats and the men have to be ‘race ready’ in order to perform at a high level – thus getting in a boat and not being dropped. The culture of the team and the enclosed environment ensures everyone is ‘ready’. Each individual has his own race day schedule and preparation – and as they are rowing in teams, a day is time tabled with warm ups, meals etc before races.
As the FA Cup final was on Saturday, it is interesting to compare the lives of the rowers with footballers, who are also playing in teams and live in a ‘bubble’. A good drinking game is waiting for commentators to say “I wonder what he’s thinking now” before a big match. In fact, the elite footballers, like the rowers, should be in a performance ‘zone’ so they are totally focused on the match ahead. Whether or not sports psychologists or a rigorous schedule of preparation from the managers prepare the players for the big match, there is a ritual or schedule these players will go through – possibly always wearing the same shoes or having a pre-match pep talk from the manager, to get into the zone.
Having come from a music performance background, I recognise the preparation and having a daily performance timetable. Having seen the extraordinary performances of teenagers in the Young Musician of the Year competition this weekend, I appreciate that rehearsing, practicing and asking questions to ensure you are completely happy with the environment and the actual event ensure you go into the “zone” rather than think through that you are in the final of an amazing competition. The young musicians would have their family and teachers to guide and support them. However, they will have trained for YEARS to reach this point and are no different from elite athletes in this respect. Part of the training is to mentally prepare for performances so that you are totally in ‘the moment’. Many of these techniques have been passed down through the generations of performers, because they recognise that ultimately you are responsible for your own performance.
This made me consider the following: are we relying too much on other people to develop our skill and performance levels? Should we be training and developing our skills with specialist coaches/trainers who incorporate performance into their training? I head a webinar recently from someone who openly boasted that she had taught Leona Lewis to sing and perform, because she had supported the singer in the finals of X Factor. This is ridiculous: of course Leona Lewis already knew how to sing (and the outstanding vocal coach on The X Factor would have had some great input too). There is no doubt she had a variety of support to be able to deliver high quality performances for the finals: the Musical Director, Vocal Coach, choreographer, her mentor, family, friends etc all played an input, just as the boasting life coach did. But Leona had been training and preparing herself for this moment for many years, just like the elite rowers and footballers do.
The key to good training is to realise that rarely is someone an overnight success. Developing your skills and experience, as well as being able to self evaluate and surrounding yourself with positive, supportive individuals are all ways of ensuring you become a superstar! This is something I do, so do get in touch if you want to discuss your dreams and visions and I’ll develop the strategy for getting there.