Rare are moments when my mind is quiet and when I’m not busy analyzing every last detail of every last conversation or action. From the way I ate my lettuce at the staff holiday party to the way in which a coworker was collaborating with me to ways I can be a better friend, my brain is in constant cartwheel motion about not just myself, but everyone else. If only I could at least read the thoughts of people I am interacting with on any level, perhaps this thinking process could be less time-consuming!
Over-thinking rarely is detrimental to my work performance or in my personal life (I wonder what the boyfriend would say about that statement…). However, I’m the first to admit that this tendency to analyze my motion and be critical in the moment has a way with severely interfering with my sports performance. On the soccer field, I am a whirlwind of self-critquing, wondering if I should be in that open space versus this open space, if I should run to the ball or cover another player on defense, if I ran down the open lane fast enough, why I biffed that kick, where is the ball supposed to go during a stopped play, how can I avoid the really big guy scoring, who is open, why can’t I look up more when dribbling, where should I dribble….
Oh right. I’m writing here. So my brain gets just the tiniest bit cluttered.
Well, all that clutter got cleaned up last night, and my entire playing style changed changed. Apparently, I fell into The Zone. And I cannot figure out how or why.
The Zone is this beautiful, wonderful, pinnacle of sports playing that I had never once been privy to. The Zone is a mental state in which everything is working for you both on the playing field and in your head. You are focused on the game, moving with purpose and muscle memory, and not thinking so much as doing. Top athletes often speak of The Zone as being in a place of clarity, of seeing the whole field, of being able to feel what they are supposed to do. And the best athletes in the world tend to be able to be in The Zone most of the time they are competing.
In more scientific terms, The Zone is a phenomenon in which an athlete is working and succeeding in the moment of the game.
Must be nice.
Apparently, if you’re like me and you think too much, you’re more likely to struggle with performance. According to an article on WebMD, “Athletes with neurotic tendencies — who dramatize events as catastrophic — have more negative thoughts and a harder time hitting the zone. This intrusive chatter is distracting and results in the athlete’s ‘thinking, instead of doing,’ says researcher Roland A. Carlstedt, PhD, a clinical sports psychologist with Capella University in New York City.” Over-thinking is distracting — yikes!
No wonder my soccer performance has been suffering. Every time I get too critical and question too much, I’m being detrimental to myself and to my team because I can’t, as the coaches say, keep my head in the game.
Somehow, though, last night I suddenly felt great. I literally dribbled around people — it sort of seemed like maybe the team we were playing was a little slower than other teams, but who knows. It was as though I had ball-handling skill. I also managed to take the ball away from the other team while they were dribbling, instead of just hindering them as I am wont to do. I managed to often be in a really good open space on the field, and hit a nice assist to another player. I even scored my first goal with this team. WIth my left foot. And I did it all while being only in the moment, and not getting down on myself when I wasn’t playing well.
Seriously, where did this come from? I’ve reviewed my pre-game activities to see if there was anything that could have helped me get to this state–I came home from work, folded an endless amount of laundry, laid down for ten minutes, ate a spoonful of peanut butter, and drove to the game. And I did sing my power song, “All the Small Things” by Blink 182, which used to my favorite get-pumped song in marching band.
Hmmm. All I can say is I hope to have many more games like that in the future. Minus the killer headache I got during the game, that followed me around for the next three hours. Still getting those darn exercise headaches. Yuck.