Today I aim to clear up the irony between “how to win” and “wanting to be a winner”.
I have been making tons of mistakes my whole life in the sport I love by going down this rabbit hole of winning. It’s true that winning feels good and many of us do not stop at what we do because we are constantly chasing for the next gold.
However, after learning about how coach Terry Wonderle explains how the mind works with respect to being fixated on winning, I start to see winning in a different light.
We must have a winning mindset, but we also must know what to focus and when to focus on the right things.
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There was this day when a friend of mine, also my team-mate mentioned that there are too many success stories out there that are not possible for us to emulate. She thought that sometimes we should learn not only what the best athletes do, but also from the mistakes of those who are not considered successful.
That was a valuable thought because it brings back to the idea of what do we focus on to be successful in the first place?
Before we go any further, if you haven’t yet and wish to learn more on how to keep focus to reduce unwanted stress and burnout in out sport, you should back track to episode 137 to get started on how to enjoy your sport and find your true potential at the same time.
“How Do I Become the Winner?” Is the Wrong Question
Next, it’s also important to be better than yourself all the time rather than just getting fixated on the win.
It’s not that winning is something that’s not good, it’s good which I will explain more later. But the human brain complicates matters when people start focussing too much on winning and missed out on the “how to win”.
Listen to episode 139 on the Number One Rule to Becoming a Better Player. That one has a bit of background you can learn.
The question here isn’t whether one should be going for the win or not, but what should athletes be obsessed about.
Do winners focus on winning to win?
Does this mentality affect one’s enjoyment in the sport?
Does enjoyment in your sport matter?
In my opinion, focussing on winning is important, but we shouldn’t be focussing on becoming a winner.
They will lead an athlete towards different paths.
Before we get into that, first let’s look at what FOCUS means.
What does the term “focus” mean to you?
It’s been widely known that the word “focus” represents “Follow One Course Until Successful”.
Simply put, being successful does not mean being a winner, because it doesn’t mean if you have been losing means you are not successful.
As a Singaporean athlete, I see so many other Singaporean athletes compete in Olympics to come home without winning a medal. Are they unsuccessful? I hope not. Are they losers? Should they even be branded that way? Does that even matter?
But on the other end of the spectrum, if one fine day, one little known athlete from Singapore wins the Olympic gold medal, as of speaking there’s never been a Singaporean who won gold in the Olympics by the way. If this happens, what would that say about this athlete and the rest who had worked so hard but never have gotten there?
Well, my opinion is, as an athlete, I believe that one must have a strong foothold and philosophy about winning, no doubt. It’s important that being in a competitive sport, one must be obsessed to win at all costs. That’s how we should operate because we don’t just enjoy the sport, love it and expect to get fulfilment with enjoyment alone.
We do it on a daily basis out of fulfilment but we need to be improving, we need to be working towards getting results.
The value is in the process, but the results are the rewards.
That said, I also believe we should not focus on becoming a winner. There’s a difference between winning and winner here.
“Winning” is in the doing and “winner” is the end result, the image.
Focussing on the winner brings one to compete for the wrong reasons.
Only after being an athlete for so long, now I realised it’s not about winning or losing that’s so important. What’s important is what we should be focussing on that leads us to success.
The difference between someone who’s successful and one who is not is dependent on what they are focussing on.
If you are focussed on being a winner, if you are obsessed to become a winner, then you will be in trouble. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get the gold medal at the end of the day. Anyone can win it, because circumstances may allow it, but with the wrong reasons to it, it may spark different actions down the road after that.
The person who focusses on being a winner will be frustrated if he or she couldn’t see the same or better result in future. It brings with them emotions and expectations. What happens here is the athlete becomes defensive when he or she makes a mistake and chooses to put the cause on something else rather than be responsible about it.
What happens if he or she is not responsible about it? They do not improve as well as they could have.
Not only they don’t improve, they also end up not enjoying the process, which makes them drag themselves to training. This creates a never ending cycle which may not be seen so soon. It may take years for anyone to uncover if blind to such philosophy.
However, the person who focusses on winning, will be practicing, will be honing skills, will be taking the proactive stance to create a program, do something and make that commitment. If they don’t see results, they ask themselves what is it they can do about it. They don’t find fault but they find solution to amend what went wrong.
Today we are going to talk about archery. Not really about it in technical terms, but I think compared to other sort of target based sports like golf or basketball, I think archery has all the basics one need to learn from when it comes to hitting the bulls eye.
One thing for sure, it’s not a hit and miss situation whereby anyone can come along to hit right on target. But it is very simple compared to other sports. However, there are archers who have trained for years and they couldn’t reach their full potential, no matter how hard they try. They never got to win the game within themselves.
Like what I’ve always mentioned, we always have to win that beast within us before we expect to take on the world. We need to get over ourselves, there’s so much to do.
Today’s case study is largely on Terry Wunderle, but let’s start with his son, Vic Wunderle. Vic is a very accomplished US archer. He made it to the US Olympic team only after three tries and that’s a big feat in itself. At least he doesn’t just give up after failing one time.
He never gotten a gold medal in Olympics but he had been close before. He has won both an individual silver and team bronze before.
The question isn’t about why he didn’t get the gold medal. Also, he isn’t a bad archer, he is one of the best in America, he is not bad at all, he is a really good archer.
He was so close when he competed in the Athens Olympics, defeated by the gold medalist by only a mere point in his quarter-final match.
The question I have is what he could have focussed on to improve his shot to catch that one point.
We don’t talk about him winning the gold medalist in the quarter-final, because he couldn’t win if he couldn’t get that point. And to get that point he needed to be accurate. In order to be accurate, he needed to have the right posture and technique and in order to get to that point, he needed to breathe right, he needed to feel right. And finally, in order to feel right, he had to focus on the right things.
When a person is fixated at where he or she wants to reach and run to, when their eyes are always on the prize, they forget everything else in between. They start to run without knowing even if obstacles are right in front of them. They are running without looking at the ground. What happens when they meet a huge rock or a drain. They will either trip or fall right in.
But what happens if they are fixated and overly focussed on looking at the ground? They may lose sight of their direction and lose their way, never to reach their destination.
So the whole idea here is to not be too fixated on the goal, but to be focussed on winning. Winning point by point, winning the way to hold the bow and arrow, winning the foot work, winning the stance, or winning the mindset.
In short, be obsessed not with the end, but be obsessed with the process.
Vic Wonderle’s dad was a professional coach in US Archery. His name is Terry Wunderle, he is someone who, above all things, hates to lose. He won one world and four national championships on the IBO circuit back in the 1980s. He hates to lose but he doesn’t care if people knows him or not.
Terry lives to hunt and only became a competitive archer to become a better hunter.
According to him, shooting is very much a mind game and it’s not only until a shooter shoots under pressure that he gets to see a shooter’s problem.
Here comes the irony, when it comes to practicing shooting, the idea is not to aim. It sounds strange because isn’t shooting about aiming the target? But for Terry, it isn’t so.
He said: “Aiming is way overrated. Don’t feel bad. Most target archers—and almost all hunters—make the same mistake. Here’s the thing. Aiming, the attempt to guide the pin back to the bull’s-eye, doesn’t decrease movement. It increases it. Worse, it causes your bow arm to do one of three things: soften, tighten, or collapse. And then your shot is toast, because 95 percent of misses are actually caused by mistakes in the bow arm. That’s what drives the shot. If you finish the shot and notice your bow arm going up or down, or off to either side, you’re screwed. Because the shot goes where the bow arm directs it. So you want to drive the arm forward. Steady pressure right into the target. Drive that arrow home.”
Terry is all about the way to do things rather than be fixated at getting the shot on target. To him, the most important piece of equipment in shooting a bow is the shooter’s mind.
When we speak about sports being a mental game, it’s not just about all self-talk and focussing all on the mind. Mental game is about knowing what to focus on and translating this focus on what you need to do physically.
As Terry mentioned in this article, “if you shoot good form, aiming takes care of itself. It’s a self-correcting process. And form is whatever you can do consistently, shot after shot.”
So when we try to execute something, could be putting our foot forward, it could be scoring the ball on target or simply sprinting our way to the finishing line, they all come from the same source and point of focus. We shouldn’t focus on aiming right or getting it over and done with, or “oh, I need to get that point or improve the scoreline”. We need to think in terms of it as “a search towards the right posture, right swing, or right movement.”
Correction of our action is the key, because when it comes to sports, we all know that developing muscle memory of the right action helps us to deliver our performance naturally when the time comes. In order to develop this, we need to be consistently practicing the same action over and over again. That means, if we aim on correcting our action, if we consistently correct ourselves, we will be used to this process, which will be a skill itself that can be used whenever we want to.
It means one can use such skill while in the process of competing.
This is particularly useful when one is affected by uncontrollable factors such as weather. The trick to overcoming factors such as weather is to be flexible with our execution, and in order to be flexible, we need to be able to learn to self-correct. Those who haven’t mastered the habit of self-correction, will find themselves stranded and frantically searching for answers at crunch time.
At the same time, self-correction is supposed to bring you closer to the right way of executing something and when you eventually know which is the right way to execute something so accurate, you know how to repeat that action again and again. It comes from deliberate practice.
Ultimately, what’s most important when it comes to competitive sports is to put our minds towards form and finish. We need to work with your conscious mind when we are at training towards maintaining good form rather than thinking about aiming and getting the shot right. We need to first get our body right.
Many athletes have a problem being on target even having worked so hard and end up panicking or choking is both psychological and neurological.
There’s even a term for this, believe it or not, it’s called “target panic”.
The New York Times reported that Terry Wunderle, who himself admitted to battling target panic from time to time, would not reveal whether any of the Olympic archers he coached had faced target panic. “I would not say it if I knew it,” said Wunderle, who also did not want his son interviewed on the subject with the Beijing Olympics a week away. “It’s like being an alcoholic. They don’t say much about it. They don’t fess up to it.”
Target panic, also known as gold fever because sufferers become obsessed with hitting the gold center.
Wunderle advises his clients to imagine seeing and feeling what a good shot is, without focusing on aiming the arrow.
“Do not focus on results,” he said. “When you focus on results, it builds anxiety. And anxiety is the kiss of death.”
One of the most popular cures is to entirely remove the target. Sufferers instead practice shooting at a blank target, sometimes for weeks at a time, to retrain the mind.
Bernie Pellerite, author of the book “Idiot Proof Archery” and a self-described expert on target panic said: “The empty bale restores your confidence in your subconscious,” “Nobody flinches or punches or chokes on an empty bale.”
So the next time you are up to take shots or swings, anything that requires aiming and accuracy. Take the target board or point as just the general direction first. If the ball ever gets there, as I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, “never leave anything to chance”. You can create the vehicle to bring you to where you want to go and keep using it over and over again because you know how to use and when to use it.
In case you might ask for today’s show notes, links and more, you can go to starplayeracademy.com/podcast, sign up for my newsletter while you’re there, all you get is my best stuff to your inbox, I bet you don’t get the same stuff from anywhere else.
And please don’t be shy, if you have any burning question to becoming a better player, let me know. I promise you it’s not going to happen now, we are going on this long game together, but I promise you that I will take you by the hand and walk on with you on this journey. All I want to do is to help you become a better version of yourself in your sport.
If you want to find me, go to Twitter @MarilynWo.
So I’ve been wondering, it would not only be inspiring if a Singaporean will one day win an Olympics gold medal, it would also be interesting.
Not that it means anything as I’ve said, but getting qualified in the Olympics is hard enough, let alone winning so many countries which have such deep history in the participation of such an event.
Then again, anything can happen, it’s possible.
Have a great day everyone.
Big thanks to Dexter Britain for composing such wonderful inspiring music: The Time to Run
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