All athletes regardless of sport or position need to have special abilities on and off the ice. One of these special abilities I have termed is “Athletic Separation”. (AS for short)
AS by definition refers to the refined ability of an athlete to distinguish between factors that involve the athlete and factors that involve the person. In simple terms, there needs to be two distinct people contained in one person; one is the athlete, one is the person.
Although it is clearly impossible to entirely separate the two, the greater the separation the greater the athletic performance over time will be. To understand my premise lets look at two examples.
Johnny has really been struggling, teammates are looking at him differently and the coach blew up at him in front of the team. “We need a goaltender to start making saves for us. Johnny, if you don’t start doing your job you won’t be playing!”
As unfortunate as this type of comment is it does happen and will continue to happen. If Johnny has a high degree of AS he won’t take the comment personally. He won’t leave the rink upset with the coach. He won’t let those hurtful words stick with him and affect his ability to sleep. The alternative is more common and hard to avoid. Most young athletes in Johnny’s position do let it get to them and they haven’t yet learned to display elite AS. In this case Johnny is likely to enter his next game feeling immense pressure to perform and will most predictably struggle if things don’t go well early. Under these circumstances his chances of success are low and the early goal would see him crumble performance wise.
We would like to think this draconian coaching style has no place in the game. It doesn’t. However it is there and we will continue to be. I would suggest that many talented kids quit their sport because they can’t call up appropriate AS. Maybe in some unfortunate way this is a form of athletic natural selection. I’m sure the beer leagues are full of these exact cases.
Kevin has been playing great on a surprising Division 1 college team challenging for number 1 in the national polls. The scouts are talking about him. The coaches joke around with him, patting him on the back both literally and figuratively. He is playing great, things are coming easy to him and he is on his way to the big leagues.
In this case many athletes lose whatever AS skills they have developed. He believes all the fans who are telling him how great he is. He believes all the fawning reporters, scouts and agents. This can be very dangerous for his continued success if he doesn’t let his AS take over.
For that type of athlete, they can lose sight of the fact that those fair weather supporters love the athlete – not the person. If your game leaves you or you leave the game you will quickly find out how cheers turn to silence.
You can’t deny how great it feels personally when you win and when things are going well. I’m not arguing for athletes to become emotional vacuums because emotion can fuel performance. Emotions and personal feeling can be a powerful personal motivator with clear positive athletic implications.
The ability of an athlete to appropriately maximize their athletic separation will greatly affect long term success, consistency and their ability to handle immense pressure. It is truly a relaxing feeling to manipulate the pressure fully on the athlete not the person.
Copyright © 2006 Stephen McKichan