Winning before you start Ö. By Ron Jackson
One of the not so well kept secrets of our sport is that so many races are won and lost before they even start. I know that preparation is essential to a good competition and I also know that the conditions play a defining role in the outcome. We all know those things but what we most often fail to acknowledge is the power of predetermination. I remember some of my best athletes telling me before a race ďI canít beat her. She ran so fast her last time out that she left everyone in the dust.Ē After hearing that, I told my athlete that I saw little reason for her running the race. She had already predetermined the outcome. Doing well, not necessarily winning, the race was now a virtual impossibility since she had all but decided that she could not do it. I told her that unless she was a fortune teller or had a pipeline to God that she could not possibly know the outcome of the race. It was then that I began to understand that we all sub-consciously slot ourselves before most contests. We predetermine where we are most likely to finish. I guess it is to guard against disappointment. If I am not supposed to win then I wonít be disappointed if I donít. Makes sense, doesnít it? My athletes were only doing what they have been trained to do all of their competitive lives. Run the race to the best of their ability and let the chips fall where they may. That is a great philosophy but it does not take into consideration the obvious. What if they had been told that their abilities were not sufficient to compete. I had not always prepared them for the other side of the event, the mental side. I realized that she had heard and determined that her opponent, on this day, probably had superior abilities and would probably beat her regardless of her effort. My job was now to convince her that application of her own ability, on this day and at this time was the most important thing. It is ok to acknowledge superior talent but it is never ok to concede to circumstances that have not yet occurred. Every race has a unique set of circumstance unto itself. There is the most likely scenario and then there is the scenario that only you can complete. You can concede to pre-determination or decide that you will write your own destiny.
Again so many races are won and lost before they even start. The athlete who looks well prepared, well organized and seems to challenge the others by their appearance alone is likely to intimidate each of their lesser prepared adversaries. You must win the mental game. You must place the question in the head of your opponents, Is she as good as she looks? Do I have a chance? You must take that attitude to the starting line with you. You must have your opponents thinking about the inevitability of their defeat before the race even begins. You can do well in every race that you are mentally and physically prepared to run
All things being equal then the edge will always go to the athlete who wins the mental game. Getting the most physically from your body is tough enough but when you add the pressure of mental uncertainty then competing well becomes an almost insurmountable task. You must go to the line focused on a single initiative, to compete to the best of your physical ability regardless of the competition. Remember winning is relative to the moment. You win the moment you achieve a level of success that you have never achieved before
So many young, promising athletes forget this in their development. They are not what they will be regardless of how good or bad they currently are. It is more then a bad idea to assume that you will always be the person physically that you are today. There is too much evidence to the contrary.
Remember Ďdonít run a race you canít do your best in and donít concede a race you havenít runí.
Until next time,
Coach Ron Jackson