By Mark vonAppen
I believe that you have to build a strong foundation in all aspects of your profession, whatever it might be. A solid base includes having a strong grip on the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of yourself and your game, because they are all linked together.
If everything else is equal, mental and emotional control can make the difference. Most people feel that sports is all about speed and strength, but it goes much deeper than that. Some people have a fear of success, others have a fear of failure. You have to prepare to succeed, you have to see it.
You have to ask yourself, "What is most important right now?"
You have to learn how to be present in the moment, to be able maintain your focus on what is happening around you. If you focus on living - or playing - in the moment, the pressure goes away. In the present you're not worried about the past, or what might happen, you are only focused on the task at hand. You have to ask yourself, "What is most important right now?"
On our crew, we work hard at maintaining focus and recognizing when our attention begins to drift. We all have triggers to snap our focus back to where it needed to be, and it differs from person to person. When I begin to drift, I look at the Fully Involved sticker on the underside of my helmet and it helps me regain focus. We start each training session by saying, "I need your eyes and ears right now."
Practice hard and set goals for each training session. I'm not one to go out and simply go through the motions. My mind is set on winning, even in practice. Practice is where you develop good habits. In sports, just like firefighting, you must train proactively for any situation. You have to know how you will react given any circumstance. You can't guess, you must practice for every possible scenario so you don't get surprised. You have to train to the point that you can anticipate what is going to happen next.
You have be willing to move out of your comfort zone. When you try something new and you feel awkward and uncomfortable, but that is when you grow.