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How to Win

The Zone

This time of year brings to mind one of my favorite stories from my days of covering pro hockey.

The New York Islanders were deep into the playoffs, and one of their top players, Bryan Trottier, was being interviewed after a victory.

Someone asked Trottier how he felt about the way things were going.

“Scared,” he said.

“Scared?” the reporters said in surprise. “You’re scared? Why? Your team has never played better. You seem to be the best team in the playoffs. This whole thing seems headed to a championship.”

Nevertheless, Trottier insisted he was scared. And he explained why.

“I’m scared I might wake up one morning and not be in this zone,” he said.

And with that sentence, Trottier explained a lot about the way champions think. They must work hard to develop the right approach, the right focus, the right confidence. They also know how easily that mental approach can disappear if they’re not careful.

It turns out that Trottier need not have worried. The Islanders kept their focus and wound up winning the Stanley Cup, one of four straight titles they captured from 1980 through 1983.

Trottier left all of us with two great points to ponder. One, how do you get in the zone, that place where the game seems to slow down, where everything flows beautifully. Two, once you’re in the zone, how do you stay there?

We’ll be talking about the zone this week, at a time when great sports events are going on all over the globe. The NBA and NHL playoffs are headed to a conclusion, the French Open is taking place, and soon the best golfers in the world will be headed to the U.S. Open.

Every player in each of these events will be hoping to enter the zone.

Hopefully, after some discussion, we’ll all have a better idea of how we can, too.


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