Coach Corner September 5: Sean Garick September 04, 2022 22:16 Updated Follow Not signed in? Log into your Purple Patch account for full access to your education program for coaches and athletes. You need to sign in to view this page. Anxiety is a crucial element when it comes to performing well. Not enough or too much and performance suffers. This is captured in the “Yerkes-Dodson Law” which states that performance increases with physiological or mental stress but only up to a point. At lower levels or higher levels of stress performance decreases. I was first taught about “optimum” stress as a young fighter pilot. The Marine Corps works hard to keep stress at exactly the right level. Teaching pilots how to help control stress, knowing that in our future unchecked stress will be well over the optimum level simply due to the nature of our work. For most of us, too little stress isn’t a problem. I have seen it only a handful of times with athletes coming into a race completely calm. Too calm. Relaxed but also unfocused. The result is never good. We want - no, we NEED - some anxiety. Anxiety means you CARE. It means you are invested. It sharpens you. I promise you do not want to have zero anxiety about landing aboard the aircraft carrier at night in bad weather. You want that heart rate elevated. You need to be on the edge. It makes you alert and focused. However, too much can be debilitating. It’s important to note that high performers don’t have less fear but they have learned to manage it. They aren’t consumed by it. And they use it to sharpen their focus and raise their performance. Stress is like fire. It can cook for you or it can consume you So, how can we lower stress when it threatens to be a raging out-of-control fire within us? There is one answer: Increase control Fine, Sean. So, how do we increase control? First, we control the controllables. There are a 1000 things that can go wrong during a race. You are only aware of about 600 of them. And of those, only about 400 do you have any control over. So, we focus on those items. And we control them to the best degree we can. Next, we increase control through routine and rehearsal. This is key. As student pilots, we would “chair fly” our entire flights. Sitting in the ready room, eyes closed, going over every single movement, every switch, every radio call, every maneuver. Rehearsal applies in race prep too. For example - transitions. You should be able to rehearse transitions in your mind anywhere. You know exactly how everything will be packed; exactly what order you will go through. All stress is gone. There are no decisions to make. It is simply to go through the motions of what you have rehearsed a hundred times. Make everything about racing routine to you. Finally, we have to release the uncontrollables. Let them go. But ONLY the uncontrollables. Even when one thing is uncontrollable we can prepare for how will respond if that one thing happens. You might be worried about if it’s going to rain. Your first reaction might be, well I can’t control the rain, so I have to let that worry go. And while you can’t control the rain, you can PREPARE for the rain. You can know exactly what you will do IF it does rain. You can’t control if you get a flat, but you can practice and know exactly how to expeditiously change your flat. You can PREPARE for uncontrollable, even if you can’t control them. At your next race, don’t ‘freak out’ if you are a bit anxious. Be glad of it. You need it. Prepare in the ways we mention above and embrace that bit of stress that is leading you to better performance. Hope that helps!