In this series, we provide weekly excerpts from Pete Carroll’s New York Times Best Selling book, Win Forever. Win Forever is about more than winning football games; it’s about maximizing your potential in every aspect of your life. Carroll has taught business leaders facing tough challenges. —– “In my early years as a coach I was influenced by Abraham Maslow, Tim Gallwey, and Michael Murphy. Each had a profound impact on my learning and eventual teaching. Yet as the years passed, Gallwey’s “Inner Game” concept proved to be the most influential. The essence of the Inner Game is to acquire and maintain a “quieted mind,” which may then allow an athlete to perform at his or her highest level. Most of my coaching has revolved around enabling players and teams to achieve this state of mind. “The only competition that matters is the one that takes place within yourself. It isn’t about external factors. Tim Gallwey and his Inner Game approach to performance has had a huge impact on how I look at the challenges of coaching. Specifically, Gallwey wrote about how human beings tend to enter a state of doubt when faced with the unknown or uncertainty. When that occurs, he wrote, we instinctively “overtighten.” Physically, when we doubt our ability, we will tend to overtighten our muscles. Mentally, we fear failure and can become emotional and distracted.
“This seemed so obvious when I read it, but until Gallwey, nobody had pointed it out. Examples I immediately thought of were about a basketball player failing to follow through when shooting a timely three-pointer, or a wide receiver short-arming a pass across the middle when he senses a safety bearing down on him. Gallwey’s illustrations of overtightening was a golfer who doubts his ability on a short putt; he tenses up as he makes contact with the golf ball, and misses a shot he could have made if only he had been playing loose. “Gallwey says that the concept of overtightening is nearly a “universal principle,” and it certainly happens in football. Like any other sport, football presents physical and mental challenges. It is our job as coaches to prepare players in every regard possible. When players know that they have mastered the rigors of training, whether on the football field or in the weight room or classroom, then their confidence leads to an unusual focus, free from distractions, doubt or fear. This attentiveness, also known as a quieted mind, clears the way for athletes to perform at their highest potential. “Think of young children playing. They don’t worry about being judged, and they are only concerned with having fun. In those moments, it’s easy to observe true, uninhibited play. We witness a level of concentration where the children are totally immersed, unaware of the world around them. This fascination and ability to be supremely focused are essential for their development, much like an athlete. “An athlete’s immersion in and focus on performance allows for a lost sense of time in much the same way. When we have confidence and allow ourselves to become fascinated, the world seems to move in slow motion. It is an altered state of consciousness that comes from an extreme level of focus. Some performers describe this as resembling an out-of-body experience.”
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