“Polo is a game of extremes,” says Bill Cole, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, who has worked with many polo pros. “One moment you’re slowly tapping the ball downfield, and then suddenly you’re at full-speed chasing the guy who just stole the ball from you. Unless you’re good at staying calm, this back-and-forth frenetic pace can take its toll.”
It’s a toll no player can afford: decreased performance on the field. In the short term that can mean losing games and the confidence of your teammates. If it persists the consequences may impact your career and income, given today’s shrinking job market.
Cole, who is CEO of William B. Cole Consultants in Silicon Valley, California, and founder and president of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, has taught players how to keep their nerves in check while remaining energized. It is a state he has branded as “relaxed intensity.”
Reaching that state, however, is easier said than done without developing effective ways of controlling the jitters. It is true even for the top players in the world. How do you think 10-goaler Sapo Caset feels when he approaches the penalty line to take the shot that will win or lose the game for his team? To control his nerves he concentrates intently on his breathing, a calming and centering tool Cole recommends as a means to access “the zone” of top performance.
Cole describes the zone as a “strange mix of being mentally calm and clear, yet being full of bodily energy, all at the same time.” He says, “The zone is not about how confident or competitive-minded you feel. It's more of an internal sense of how ready you feel to compete: how excited and eager you are, how much energy you have and how mentally alert you are.”
Here are some tools Cole has given players to achieve a state of relaxed intensity:
Click here for a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool that gives you a snapshot of the strengths and weaknesses in your mental game.
Article by Darlene Ricker