The Sporting Brain…I’m in a Zone Dude!

October 20, 2015

With the future bringing us driverless cars, lifelike robots, hologram TV, virtual everything and chip implants, I really don’t want to give it much thought. Much like owning a lot of things, some of these new technologies will own you. Okay, say I am stuck in the past, but I will accept my fate.  What will get you through the maladies of modern life will always be happiness and peace of mind.

What does peace of mind have to do with sports?  Is it stillness and some simple meditation?  I am not going to get all yoga on you, but some things are timeless. You have to shut the brain down naturally now and then to rest it and give yourself clarity. You will find that life slows downs, your body relaxes and you can get a Zen-like awareness that’s as good as any superpower. The ability to suspend or slow down the rapid pace of modern life is the secret to any performance. 

You often hear about athletes stating that they perform best when the game slows down. The game doesn’t slow down but the performer has been able to reach a more acute awareness of their ability and play around them. They visualize the play before it happens allowing the body to just follow. I like sports such as baseball, golf and tennis, sports requiring hand-eye coordination.  When I am performing well, the ball responds to the force I assert with more speed. That translates in me hitting the ball in the “sweet spot” of the bat, racquet and club.  It seems effortless when it happens but it not always easy to repeat.

An athlete practices his sport to not only create strength and stamina, but to create muscle memory. It is such a fine line when you are actually competing, the difference between failure and success.  Muscle memory is not the only answer to the riddle, it’s also focus and clarity.  How to achieve “it” requires just as much practice as physical skills.  I believe when an athlete has confidence in their abilities their analytical brain slows down the subconscious guides them in their moment. I am no psychologist, but I know the feeling of hitting a golf ball a long way.  Golf is the most mental game because of the small margin for error and when you’re in a zone, it feels effortless.

There are more and more advancements in the mental aspect of sports performance. I recently watched a documentary on virtual reality and its use in sports conditioning.  The athlete is trained to recognize visual scenarios in the virtual world that is a replica of their athletic endeavors.   For Instance, quarterbacks wear these special eyewear, then shown multitudes of plays and defensive alignments in a 3D world. The result is to place the athlete in a real time, life like situation that replicates a game. The athlete is getting practice time without stepping on the field.

These types of technologies will probably end up in our living room and you can teach yourself something by putting on the headset. Don’t know how to play piano or want to build an IKEA cabinet, put on the headset and the memory chip in and you are performing a hands-on task.  Of course, if you have your robot, they can do this for you.

My original premise before I began rambling was; life is easier when you can turn off the clutter that comes blowing into your brain and just let the subconscious mind take over for a while.  You can practice your golf swing over and over, but your mind eventually knows what the correct swing is. The skill at that point is not the swing but how to find it in the brain and not think about. Sounds easy huh? If it was easy, life would be easy, now go back to the golf range.