From docks to gates, Seth Stisher helps you get into the right frame of mind.
Most sports are greatly dependent on your mental game, but slalom skiing takes that to a new level. There are no second chances in competition slalom skiing – if you fall or miss a buoy, it’s game over for you. For this reason and many more, it is very important to stay focused. From the moment you leave the starting dock to the initial pullout for the entrance gates, your mental actions can be the most important few seconds in your performance.
The Importance of a Good Mental Game
Mental rehearsal can be as important as the actual practice itself, but no matter how often you take practice ski rides in your head, your last mental effort is finding that perfect zone where your confidence is high but just shy of cocky. You need to know that you can ski your best, but you also need to be aware that this requires you to be “in the moment” and feel not only the movements of your body, but those of the boat and the water as well. In short, you need to be connected with your environment. If your head is right, this should be easy.
How Do I Find That Zone?
We’ve all been that skier whose nerves got the best of him – some of us more than others. The question is, how do we find that zone where nerves aren’t an issue? There are several books by sports psychologists who have spent their lives working with this very thing. On a basic level, the key is focus. Many athletes have described their best performances as out-of-body experiences. You have to tune out the outside world and channel your mind into the tunnel in which you are working to achieve this. If you try to focus on this too early, you will surely drive yourself crazy. A good practice is to stay loose and do light mental rehearsals up to the point just before you jump into the water. Once in, it’s time. Let the water be the beginning of your major connection.
From that point until you enter the course, keep your mind tuned into the feeling you know so well – the rhythm of slalom skiing. Let your mind feel that carving sensation and the swinging rhythm of you cruising your way through the easiest slalom pass ever. Think of that feeling as the reason you show up. Sure you want to win, but the speed, power and rhythm are what make it so much fun. Focus on that. The key here is, if you think like a champion, you just may be one!