Wednesday, 8 July 2015

You Can't Win If You Go In Scared

You can't win if you go in scared

Now on my way home from a whirlwind, 3-week South American tour, I've been able to reflect a bit. The biggest lesson I've learned from this trip is this: you can't win if you go in scared. This pertains to anything--a judo match, a job interview, a conversation, life, etc. Here's how I learned this lesson the hard way:

The importance of this tour was beyond anything I've ever encountered in my judo career. I put too much pressure on myself to perform. I HAD to win a few matches, I HAD to place at a couple of the tournaments, I HAD to bring home a medal (for my own satisfaction), I HAD to win that Pan Am slot, I HAD to win that World Team slot. I HAD to do all of these things because (I thought) so many people were relying on me, counting on me to do so. I HAD to do these things so I wouldn't let everyone down. I HAD to do these things so I wouldn't let myself down. Guess what--I didn't do it. I didn't win a single match until the last tournament. It wasn't until I didn't give a damn about my results, that I was able to perform. 

The first two tournaments I was focused, determined, I had a game plan--a strategy to win, I researched my opponents, I warmed up properly, I had my 'game face' on...I knew what I had to do in order to win. I to put too much pressure on myself, I went into each match (subconsciously) scared...because I had so much to gain if I won and so many people to let down if I lost. I was more focused on the result--and petrified to leave with this goal unaccomplished--than on the actual match. I lost every--single--match, even matches versus girls that I should have beaten...until I had nothing left to lose. 

It wasn't until the last tournament that I changed up my preparation strategy. I figured, heck...the 'super-focused', 'ultra-determined' fighting version of Ashley the Athlete didn't work the last two weeks--time to experiment. My experiment was this: to see if the way I went into a match (prepared/focused versus relaxed/having fun) made any difference whatsoever in the way I fought and how I experienced the tournament. So the last tournament, my mindset and preparation looked like this:

  • I didn't care one single bit about the draw or if I had a chance to make it to the medal rounds

·       I didn't research my opponents--I went into the match blind; I had to figure out my opponent right then and there in that instance

·       I didn't think about my strategy (my gripping sequences, technique, combinations, movement, setups, counters, etc.)

·       I didn't think about judo the night before or the day of the tournament--I tried to keep my mind completely off of the sport; I tried to think of jokes, happy events, I'd let myself daydream, smile

·       I changed up my music play list--I found the happiest, most fun songs I could and just jammed out and danced

·       I didn't warm up by doing judo--I literally just ran, did situps, burpees, squats, sprints, and stretched. I didn't do uchikomis, I didn't grip with a partner beforehand, I didn't do any movements or techniques that had to do with judo

·       I wouldn't let myself get nervous--I forced myself to randomly smile (or think of a funny or a memorable event) whenever the butterflies started to hit my stomach. This kept me calm and focused my energies elsewhere 

·       In conjunction with that, I didn't have the "mean mug" face; I kept smiling or smirking (I probably looked like a jackass, come to think of it, but I don't care)

·       I didn't worry about the match or the results; my main focus was to have fun and enjoy the moment

Guess what--it worked. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe I just didn't fight as tough of opponents--I don't know. But what I do know is that in the third tournament I went 2-2 and took 5th place--I even got to a medal round (fighting for third). The conclusion I came to is this:

I was relaxed; I enjoyed my time; I was able to play MY judo and take in the experience...and guess what, it worked for me. 

My mind wasn't clouded with fear and anxiety. I was able to let my body do the work and my brain do the thinking. Moving forward, I may stick with this strategy (or one similar to it). Moral of the story: You can't win if you go in scared. Find YOUR way to relax and be confident in your life. Let me know what's worked for you!

Thank you, Ashley, for this inspiring article, one that reaches beyond martial arts training into the realm of daily life. Hopefully, we’ll see more articles from her in the future! Please visit Ashley’s site at ASHLEY'S JUDO JOURNEY. It’s well worth visiting.

The following is a bit of background from the same site -

Judo Stats

Name: Ashley Hejlik

Sport: Judo
Height: 5’2”
Weight Category: 48kg (105.8lbs)
Hometown: Slinger, WI
Current Residence: Clifton Park, NY
Education: B.B.A—International Business with an emphasis in Marketing, B.A. German Studies from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Club: Jason Morris Judo Center, Glenville, NY
Coach: Jason Morris and Teri Takemori
Current National Rank: #2
Years in Training: 4
Favorite Technique: Sticker
Favorite Quote: “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”—Napoleon Hill

Mission & Vision

As an aspiring professional athlete I hold myself to a higher standard, personally, professionally, and athletically. I strive to embody the best of sports: commitment, integrity, passion, pride, personal accountability, and discipline. My mission is to inspire people to reach their highest potential in all aspects of their lives. I invite you to follow my journey towards athletic perfection on my quest to sports’ grandest stage, the Olympics.

I want to be a part of something bigger than myself; to leave a legacy built on hard work, 

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