By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.
The most talented player doesn't always win the match - it's the player who has the mental edge on their competition. How many times have you seen top seeds down two sets to love, being absolutely thrashed by an unseeded player ..... only to win the next three sets? How many times have you personally been defeated by someone you 'know' you should be able to beat, but they somehow always seem to have the wood on you?
The above scenarios are all about intimidation - being able to affect your opponent with your own intent, and of course, learning how to 'immunise' and shield yourself against such attacks.
Intimidation is not just about physical size, emotional outbursts, or verbal sledging - in fact the best intimidation tactics are the strong silent type that insidiously gnaw away at your opponents confidence, expose their weaknesses and undermine their abilities.
The best way to think of this concept is to begin with an example from the martial art of Aikido. When someone attacks you, there is a moment in which they gather their energy prior to expending it in the form of an attack. So there is a very small window of opportunity prior to an attack, in which you can take control of the situation.
This is identified physically in the person attacking by their taking an 'in-breath'. Before we can expend energy, we have to first gather energy in. Try it yourself - draw back your fist and arm as if you were going to punch someone, and notice how as you do, it's natural to take a breath in. Then you expel it as you punch.
This concept doesn't just apply to combat - in order to achieve anything, to do anything, there is a period of gathering energy first - then the expenditure of energy. For example, think of a tennis forehand or a golf swing - you first take back the club or racquet in order to develop the power to hit the ball. In Nature, and even in business, there are periods of withdrawal prior to bursts of growth or activity.
The idea for the Aikido exponent is to be aware of the movement of 'energy' in your partner, (through attention to their breathing and other non-verbal signals), and to blend with their attack at the point just prior to it happening, so as to re-direct their movement and energy to your purpose.
However it's not just the physical action that happens in someone attacking - a worthy opponent will also attack with their mind.
So we take action to 'catch' an opponent's arm or wrist in that window of opportunity before the completion of their in-breath and their attack, but it also means 'capturing' their mind; to blend with their attack at the point of intention.
What I do when I 'capture my opponent's mind' is to enter into their thought space and take control of their point of intention. So that just as they intend an action, I have already blended with that intention and turned it in another direction.
While this may sound very esoteric, I'm sure you've already experienced it, many times. Every time you've competed or interacted with someone and been able to somehow know - beyond logic - what they were going to do, is an example of this.
Also you may have been on the receiving end of the process! If you've ever felt totally controlled by someone else, or totally unconfident around them to the point where you're not acting or performing in your normal manner - they've captured your mind; or rather, you've allowedthem to capture your intention point.
Try the following exercise :
EXERCISE : Capturing Your Opponent's Mind
1. Begin with a short relaxation and imagine around yourself a bubble of positivity. [ An excellent six-step format for doing this is outlined in all the Sportsmind audio tapes ]
2. Now picture your opponent, see them in your mind's eye and associate into them: get a feel for how they move, what they see, and what they hear or say to themselves when they're playing.
3. Now simply intend to capture their intention - to know their plans, strategies and intentions.
4. Return to yourself and reflect on the exercise.
CASE STUDY : Cyclist
The above exercise is excellent for taking charge in a competitive interaction - and you will also want to know how to shield yourself against it, if someone applies it to you! A professional female cyclist asked me for some help in dealing with a situation in which her opponent was staring her down just prior to the start of a race - and this was putting her off.
Through using this process she was able to block her opponent's attempts to psych her out, and shield herself from her influence.
To some people, this concept of 'capturing your opponents mind' and the exercise I've just described may seem 'evil' or dishonourable. If this is the case, let me ask you two questions: Firstly, if it's OK to compete and struggle against someone physically during the game, then why is it any different to apply such mental pressure? What makes it all right to compete physically, but not mentally?
Secondly, when does the actual competition begin? Does it begin when the officials blow the whistle to begin, or while you're warming up, or when you first step onto the playing field? Many people think of a competition starting at the 'official' starting time of the first serve, or play, or whatever - but I would argue that it begins days, or even weeks before.
Give yourself an advantage in every competition by starting the game well before your opponent.
Deliberately smile at them and then ignore them. Prior to the game deliberately imagine them as puny, unfit and clumsy, then forget about them. They aren't important - YOU are.
Focus on the most important person - that's YOU. Remember all the training and hard work you've done to get here. Deliberately recollect and relive the best matches you've ever played: come from behind victories; easy closeout wins; times you served aces and returned powerfully; the cross court and line winners you've made; confident put-away volleys; etc. Highlight your best performances, and make them large and close in your mind's eye.
Now picture capturing your opponents mind. See yourself as an intimidating player.
[ The above article has been excerpted from my new book, Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings, that shows you how to develop the thinking and feeling strategies and techniques of champions. For more information see www.sportsmind.com.au or contact Jeffrey Hodges at firstname.lastname@example.org Phone (07) 5445 7994 ]
About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.
He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.
Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.
For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : email@example.com
website : www.sportsmind.com.au