Chalk Talk: Find that strong foundation, don’t let distractions in
Listen to post-game interviews of the most elite athletes and you will hear many one-liners that much of us have learned to tune out.
“I just have to worry about what I can control, and focus on that.”
“Just focusing on staying in the moment and not looking too far forward or dwelling on the past.”
We often don’t pay much attention to these post-game comments as it feels a little disingenuous or pre-constructed things the athletes say just to avoid saying something that could get them in trouble. But many of these comments actually have nuggets of gold in them and I would urge any young athlete to tune in and pay attention to these post-game press conferences and the language they use.
A while back, I read “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. It’s an amazing read quickly becoming a cult classic in the sports world and most notably, the NFL.
“Stoicism as a philosophy is really about the mental game,” Holiday said. “It’s not a set of ethics or principles. It’s a collection of spiritual exercises designed to help people through the difficulty of life. To focus on managing emotion; specifically, non-helpful emotion.”
At the highest levels, the pressure and scrutiny and the consequences are so intense that athletes and coaches cling to philosophies and beliefs they can anchor themselves to and repeat over and over as to not get caught up in all of the chaos, criticism and distractions around them.
To maintain success over a long period of time, they must have a strong foundation they can circle back to as they go through the inevitable ups and downs that come with high-level sports – to be able to look at “failures” and challenges without becoming mentally defeated, to look at obstacles without emotion and judgement and even as opportunities that could even lead to something better.
For example, getting cut from a team may be a blessing later when finding a better fit someplace else, even though it may have been tough to swallow at the time. Without a foundational belief system, the athlete may take these challenging situations totally differently with disastrous results.
Can you think of all of the times a highly successful athlete gets caught up in all of the fame and distractions around them and seem to spiral off course into total chaos, often never recovering?
Tiger Woods (until recently!)
and on and on and on
Sustainable success over a long period of time requires a foundational belief system and continuous mental practice and routine to stay focused on the process, on the work, and on task and training.
I would highly recommend “The Obstacle is the Way” to any athlete, coach, or anyone in general pursuing greatness in anything that they do.
Thank you as always for reading and would love to discuss this book if you want to send me a note on it (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Ben Frank is the president of the Ontario Jr. Reign, a USA Hockey Model Association.
(Nov. 9, 2018)