“Players often say “I play my best when I don’t think” They don’t understand! They don’t understand that they’re not thinking of nothing. When you quiz this notion of nothingness…when you tease them into thinking about their thinking, they actually have thought. They have feelings as well…feelings they pay attention to…feelings shaped as thought! Because high performance doesn’t have a relationship with NO thought. It’s not simply a case of ‘blank your mind and play’. What a player high performing experiences is LESS thought. Perhaps it’s a thousand bits of thought rather than five thousand. Perhaps it’s 5 different sensations rather than fifteen! I don’t know! But what I do know is that high performance isn’t a vacuum. The ‘zone’ isn’t a black hole of nothingness. Competitors need a Game Face. They need self-regulation techniques. They need a strategy! They need intention to have attention. They need language – vocal and body. They need emotion and expression. They need effort and will and determination. They need cognitive processes that will help their body get the most from the environment around them. Those are the things that players need. Not nothing, but not everything. Not silence, but not noise. It’s thought…but less thought!”
When I am playing at my best, it feels like most strokes are just right, most rallies are driven by me and emotions are flowing unobstructed. I can only see the signs of strength and weaknesses on the opponent, I can read most of their shots and make them idle without a fight. And I am conscious that I reached my best and controlling positive thoughts are key to keep it up. Only focus on winning a rally, be vigilant and read the messages coming from the other side and let adrenaline to bring a bit more risk in the game.
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