The Zone is a magical period of perfection. Those athletes who have experienced it say it’s like finding an extra gear where they had uncharacteristic surges of speed and strength.
When describing the Zone, everyone points to the same themes:
- The extraordinary mental calmness
- How events are experienced in slow motion
- The freedom to do whatever you want
- How it feels more wonderful than winning
But everyone also points out that the Zone is elusive. It seems to come unexpectedly … and disappear just as quickly.
The Zone sounds so mysterious and exclusive—as if only elite athletes need apply.
But that turns out not to be the case. In reality, all of us have experienced the Zone at one time or another. Chances are the experience only lasted for a single motion—like the time we hit the perfect golf shot, or unfurled the perfect tennis serve, or threw an unhittable pitch.
Whenever those things would happen to me, I’d marvel at how effortless they were. I’d always think, “Hey, I could really play this game at a high level if only I could repeat that experience at will.”
Then I’d go about trying to do it again. I’d try to repeat thinking what I was thinking and feeling what I was feeling. Alas, even though I’d spend the rest of the day trying to duplicate that perfect athletic moment, I never could.
It wasn’t until I was waaaay past my athletic prime that I was given the secret.
It came from a man named Steven Yellin. He said he could vastly improve how I played both golf and tennis and I wouldn’t have to make a single change to my physical technique.
He explained that my body already knew how to make the perfect strokes whether they be golf or tennis. I just needed to learn how to set up the conditions for those skills to happen automatically—just like those wonderful times when they came unexpectedly.
Basically, he said he would show me how to play from the Zone, not by chance, but by design.
My problem, he explained, was mental chatter. Mental chatter was retarding my game.
“What do you mean by mental chatter?” I asked.
“There are many examples. Reminding yourself of swing mechanics while you’re in the middle of your swing is a real no-no,” he said to my amazement. “Things like telling yourself to take your racquet back, or to keep your eye on the ball, or to rotate your hips. Stuff like that. Those types of thoughts play havoc.”
But it got worse.
“Hoping for an outcome while you are swinging also sabotages your stroke—like hoping the ball will go over the net, or over the pond, or in the basket, or through the strike zone.”
There was more.
“Or telling yourself to hit the ball hard, or soft, or with spin, or down the line.”
“But I have all those thoughts all the time,” I protested. “In fact, probably every athlete has those types of thoughts at some time or another.”
“And that’s why athletes rarely play up to their potential. Even superstars,” he said. “Having these types of thoughts while you are playing a sport is like stepping on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. These types of thoughts disrupt coordination. They introduce flaws. They exhaust the mind and body. And worst of all, even just one of these thoughts is enough to keep you from playing in the Zone.”
While my mind was swooning, he added, “But all this mental chatter is easily avoidable.”
When he showed me the tricks to playing with a chatter-free mind, I was stunned at how much my game improved. The contrast was day and night. The freedom, the timing, and the effortlessness that resulted were astounding. It was, without a doubt, exactly what I had been searching for my entire athletic life.
In my opinion, Steven Yellin’s knowledge is something every athlete should be exposed to. So with that in mind, I tried to incorporate his game-changing approach in a book titled The Mentally Quiet Athlete (www.MentallyQuiet.com). If you take the time to read it, I think you will gain an invaluable perspective on how easy it is to play from the Zone whenever you want. It will give you an easy-to-follow road map to the Zone.