In 1998, I was invited to compete against 13 of the top collegiate high jumpers at the Sea Ray relays at the University of Tennessee.
It was a rainy, blustery day to say the least. As we started to warm up, several athletes went over to the officials and asked if the event could be postponed. The officials said if there was no lighting, the event would not be postponed. As I was going through my warm up, I could see a bunch of the athletes were upset and complaining. My thought process was “I’ve got these guys beat already.” Poor weather conditions never bothered me and I always felt I had a competitive advantage in these situations.
For many athletes, it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon and complain with the other athletes. Rather than do that, you have to use it to your advantage. Regardless of the circumstances, you have to be able to “focus on the task at hand and execute” This is a unique trait of the best athletes in the world. They don’t care who is watching, who they are competing against, where the venue is, they just get in their own world and focus on execution knowing that more times than not, they will succeed when they do this.
What was interesting about the competition is that I was the 13th jumper on the list, meaning I could see what the other 12 jumpers did in front of me. The starting height in this meet was 7 feet which was high considering the weather. As the meet started, many of the jumpers were missing the bar….everyone missed their first attempt, then everyone missed their 2nd attempt, then on to the 3rd attempts. The weather was still poor and I quickly realized that everyone missed their 3rd attempt and it was my turn. I could literally win the meet if I cleared the bar.
The wind was whipping and light rain fell. I had a moment of self talk telling myself to focus on the task at hand. I stepped up to my mark 100% committed as I visualized the execution of the jump and went through my normal routine. i ran up and cleared the bar! I won the meet on the opening height.
What I learned from that meet is regardless of the circumstances, you have to be able to focus on the task at hand and not get distracted. Easier said than done. A lot of my ability to be able to do this was aligned with the way I approached my training…focused, intense and and never missing training days which added layers to my development and preparation. I had built a lot of confidence from my training that helped me believe in myself in that situation. Focus on the task at hand and thrive!
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