Wes Myron Fitness is passionate about how every person on Earth can learn from elite sports performers, and apply this to their own lives.
However, it’s rarely about the individual sporting skill – some people are more genetically disposed to co-ordination, some folks are born with perfect proportions for specific sports – it’s primarily about why they do what they do, and how they get themselves ready to perform.
In this new series, ‘Clutch!’ we’ll be looking at world-class performances by elite athletes, and asking why they were able to pull that particular personal performance out at that time. We’ll also be looking at what you can learn from how they showed up that day.
In the first of the series, we enlisted the help of M.S. Sport Psychology expert, Tyler Pazik to shine a light on how the athlete shone.
The athlete: Jason Day
The performance: 2019 Masters
What they did:
Family can be one of the most inspiring drivers for any performer, and one of the most Dad-moves ever happened this past weekend in the second round of the Masters. It also might be the reason why Jason Day made the cut (besides the fact that he’s the 12th best player on the tour right now…).
During Day’s warmup, he was coming off the putting green and bent down to kiss his daughter. On the way up, he threw out his back.
Now, I’m sure everyone reading this have had a sore back before. One that left us incapable of doing normal activities. And for most people, a thrown out back would put us in the couch. Now imagine a golfer suffering this immediately before he starts his round, knowing he has 70 or so highly technical and physical shots coming up, which all flow through his back. It could, and maybe should, have seen a retirement from the tournament there and then.
But not Jason Day. This man went out and shot a 67 – a 5-under-par 67!
The expert’s view:
How can we learn from Jason’s achievement?
Well, here’s what I think happened – Jason Day perfectly stressed his body out, allowing his mind to get into an automatic state of performance.
What is the Zone of Optimal Performance?
In the psychology arena, there is a theory known as The Individualized Zone of Optimal Functioning (Hanin, 2007, 2009). This theory basically says that every person reacts to stress differently. Some people need a lot of stress to perform well, and some athletes, business people, or students, need minimal stress.
Stress can come in a lot of different forms: A big presentation (like the Masters), a huge test (like the Masters), you have to walk 20 miles in four days (like at the Masters)… or you throw out your back.
Have you ever heard the quote, “Never play golf against someone with a rock in their shoe?” The same thing goes here, Jason Day threw out his back and threw himself into his Zone of Optimal Functioning. His back was the rock in his shoe.
Ask yourself where does your stress level need to be to perform at your best? Do you enjoy the pressure? Do you choke when the lights come on? Knowing your level of optimal stress/anxiety/arousal is one of the keys to unlocking your performance potential.
If your personality is such that you thrive when the heat is on, then how can you self-create a rock in your shoe? The focused pain point (in Day’s case his actual painful back) could just be the fire that drives you to success.
Tyler Pazik is a sports psychology expert. Follow his journey on Instagram.