The Mental Athlete
That title covers so much...who was it that said "winning is 90% mental". Well today I'm not just here to talk to you about the psychology of being a great athlete although I will touch on that in a bit. What I'm really talking about is "learning" as part of the process. Are our athlete really students of their craft? Are we as coaches giving them the tools to be students of their craft. Are we providing the environment to challenge and grow them, regardless of where they are in their sporting career?
Let's first explore what I mean by studi=ying your craft. this means more than just I read a book on how to run faster. When you study in school, there is a deliberateness to your actions, a requirement to obtain information froma as many different sources as possible. So it should be as you become more serios about your sport. Success leaves a trail...study what successful athletes did in order toget to where they were and replicate it. There is such a wealth ofg information available for athletes and coaches nowadays that there really is no excuse for not mastering our craft, and being the best we can be.
Don't get me wrong, you can be a really good athlete without the study, but if you want to be great, you need to add a whole heap of mental weapons to your arsenal. There is not just the study of biomechanics, there is also the mental skills training to be considered. How do you coope under pressure, or when you "having a bad day". How do you focus, and keep your concentration levels high. (I'm going to go off on a tangent here, but bear with me...it'll make sense - I hope). Our natural movement for the most part in running, or quick change of direction is not pretty or efficient. Some people naturally do it better than others. I think in the last decade or so, Asafa Powell has probably been the most consistently technical sprinter, and as such has run under 10 seconds for the hundred meters more than anyone else. But he's had to train many long hours to get to that state of technical proficiency, to a point where he hasn't had to think what his limbs are doing and if they are in the right position to enable him to execute efficient fast strides (unconcious competence).
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, no doubt two of the best basketball players to come through the NBA, also worked insanely hard to make their movement seem fluid and natural (yes all these guys have got/had immense athleticism as well), but as Bruce Lee put it, there needed to be an element of "unnnatural naturalness".
A huge difference though between Asafa Powell, and the two basketball player (aprt from the obvious difference in sport) was their mental state, and mental skill (Read "Relentless - From Good, to Great, To Unstappable" - Tim S. Grover).
There is no doubt that Asafa is technically skilled, but he did lack that something extra. Their bodies needed to be trained to a state of unconcious competence so that their mind could focus on their game/race plan.
The mental training is not just about mental skilss training it's about learning your craft as well, what strength training needs to be done, what your nutrition needs to look like in oder for you to perform at your peak. Learn your craft...become a master at it, there is no excuse!