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Deliberate Practice

What Is Slowing You Down?

Today we begin the end of the year awards by selecting the best quote of 2009.

In terms of mind-body performance in the world of sport, nothing really compares with an observation heard during the World Luge Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., in February.

“Luge is a gravity sport. You can’t do anything to make yourself go faster. You can only eliminate the things that are slowing you down.”

What a perfect summation of peak performance! In any sport, there comes a time close to competition day when you can only get so physically skilled. You can only get so strong, so fast. Then the mental game must take over. You must let it happen. You must learn to perform without anxiety slowing you down.

This, of course, is easier than it sounds. How many athletes have fallen short of the prize because they just couldn’t relax when it counted?

For years, Alex Rodriguez was that way. He never seemed to be able to perform in October the way he did in the regular season. Then this past October, Rodriguez overcame that reputation and helped the New York Yankees win the World Series. Some people saw his romance with Kate Hudson as a reason he was finally able to deliver. No word on what happens now that reports say they are no longer an item.

Whatever the reason, Rodriguez was finally able to get rid of whatever was slowing him down in October games.

On the other hand, some people seem to thrive when the pressure is on. Look at the Indianapolis Colts. Last night they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, coming from behind to do so. They are now 14-0 on the season, and seven of their games have involved a fourth-quarter comeback.

“There is no panic, I will say that,” said Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. “It’s focus, guys thinking, ‘This is what we have to do, let’s go do it.’ ”

Often it’s something besides performance anxiety that can slow you down. A bad habit will do it. So will sloppy practice or a negative attitude. Either way, remember this about competition: You will be much more successful if, like a luge athlete, you can find what is slowing you down and get rid of it.


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