The term “in the zone” has been used for decades to describe athletes who seem to have transcended their normal abilities with focus and determination. It was also the title of a 2003 Brittney Spears album but that definitely existed. Are some athletes just better to begin with or is there some force that allows athletes to elevate their game with mindset alone?
This past weekend the British Open took place across the Atlantic (Yes, this is still J.J. writing and not a Spencer take over). If you’re not a golf fan, stay with me. It’s a windy Sunday on the course and young Jordan Speith has led for over 50 holes. His day starts out rough but he still has the control. Then the 13th hole happens. A bad tee shot that causes a penalty and the lead is lost.
Of course this is how sports go. However this has happened to the 23 year-old golfer before and one more implosion could be devastating. Speith had every reason to be shaken, upset, and unfocused. The opposite occurred. The native Texan nearly had a hole-in-one on the very next swing then, on the very next hole, perhaps he could not be more “in the zone”…
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 23, 2017
Are. You. Kidding. Me. Watch one more time, but just for his demeanor after the shot. In the most confident fashion, Speith tells his caddy to “go get that” as he’s got more tournament to dominate. He’d follow that up with 25+ foot putt and solidify his first British Open Championship.
At this years regionals, watching Power and Grace athlete Kristi Eramo left a smile on my face. A year prior Eramo was pushed to final event just to edge out close competition to make it to the Games. From the first event this year her demeanor was set and she might as well have been wearing a cape that read Madison Bound on it.
The zone does exist but it’s not some mystical power that special people are born with. I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of inspiration psychology talk. I highly recommend you read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. Her “growth mindset” philosophy is a game changer.
Seeing an athlete in the zone is one of the most enjoyable parts of sports to me. In an event like the CrossFit Games where the mental toll is a high price, I always try to spot it early. When everyone else’s face shows rattled and uncomfortable, I look for the athlete’s face who says “what time is the next event?”