2 takeaways from the Tour de France 2019

Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash

I rarely write or speak about cycling, but I think it’s really worth some words. This sport, at least the road biking, with the main big tours like the Tour de France, the Giro (Italy Tour) and the Vuelta (Spain tour)  combine a lot of various aspects of sport: it is both an individual AND a team sport, with more strategy than we might think, it requires a huge amount of ungrateful endurance training and it is one of the most painful sports I know, putting in some intense effort for hours, feeling the muscle pain in the legs, and the intensity pain in the stomach and heart. And in addition, it is a very dangerous sport with lots of falls, broken bones, torn skin and once in a while some deadly accidents. You need to be really motivated and committed to give it all despite the pain and to stay really focused when going down hills after intense efforts.

After this year Tour de France, in July, I wanted to share 2 things I have been present to:

Team Dedication over individual recognition:

This sport is a great illustration of what it means to give it all for a teammate. Even more than in a team sport like soccer, lacrosse or basketball, where the whole team gets the same result/score in the end, road cycling sometimes requires a cycler to give it all for his team leader who will get the main result in the end (victory, podium, points, etc…). A cycler will for instance lead the peloton at a high pace in the mountain to distance other teams, while the leader will stay “protected” behind the teammate (the one leading a group is putting in much more effort as he is in first place, mainly due to aerodynamics factors and the impact of the wind). It’s often that you will see a teammate literally give all he has until the tank is empty and he just can’t anymore and then leave the leading position to either another teammate, either the team leader, dropping at the back of the race to recover and end the race as he can. For him, no victory, no points, for recognition from the general public. His only goal is to pull as much as he can to put his leader in the best conditions, sacrificing all personal goals to his leader. Same things with sprint arrivals. Teammates will lead the group to a really high pace so as to “launch” their sprinter in the last hundreds of meters and then let him go for the sprint and the victory or podium. Whereas in a team sport the whole team will be recognized for winning, the teammates in cycling get far less recognition and the leader gets most of the light. I have a lot of respect for the dedication these teammates have and I think this could be used in any team as a great example of giving all for the team, beyond one’s personal goals, not letting the ego get in the way of the team’s objectives.

 

Resilience:

French win pretender Thibault Pinot showed and will have to show a great deal of resilience:

  • After losing 1min40s (which is a very important loss) when he got trapped in a second part of the peloton that couldn’t keep up with the leading part (because of the impact of the wind) in the first of the three weeks, he bounced back and attacked in several stages in the mountain and came back very close to his opponents, showing clear signs of strength and of a possibility for him to win the Tour. He was able to turn his big frustration of his 1min40s loss into positive energy, into the fuel that enabled him to retake this time in the mountain. And it is not sure at all that shouldn’t he have lost this 1min40s, he would have attacked this much and demonstrated such strength. This is what Resilience looks like. And you too can bounce back every time you get a bad start or have a bad result.

 

  • Then, 2 days before the end of the race (out of 3 weeks of racing), he had to give up because of an injury in his leg’s muscle, which he seems to have got by hurting his handlebar when trying to avoid people falling in front of him in a downhill. I found this heartbreaking, because he is French of course and no French has won for 34 years 😊. But even more because it feels so unfair. Last year he had lost the podium on the last day of the Giro (Italy Tour) because he fell really sick (sort of pneumonia). And this year, as he seemed to be in his best shape ever, this injury popped up 2 days before the end… He is still devastated and can’t accept it. Such strokes of bad lucks are unfortunately part of sport. You have to deal with it. It is painful, it takes time. And your ability to bounce back will determine what sort of athlete you are. Once you gave room for the frustration, the disappointment even the distress to express (better to let these feelings be rather than cover them up and pretend they are not there), you can bounce back and use this as an extra motivator to fuel you with even more determination and commitment. As Pinot said lately: “Only winning the Tour de France will help me forget, a podium won’t be enough”.

 

Take care,

 

 

5 tips to go into Tryouts

sport silhouettes

Tryouts are often a stressful moment for athletes and I wanted to share 5 (+1 extra) tips on how to go into the tryouts to help you or your kids increase your/their chance to succeed and have a better experience. 

  • Detach yourself as a person from the results of the tryouts

No matter if you make the team or not, you are still a good person, with more than your sport in your life. If you can see that clearly, this will relieve the pressure. It doesn’t mean to not want to succeed and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your best, it means that you are not defined by your results. You are more than that. And this helps move on when the results are not as expected. 

  • Focus on the Process, Not the outcome

Worrying about whether you are going to make it or not and have “what if” thoughts (what will I say if I don’t make it, what will my parents/friends/coach think if I make a mistake, etc…) will only take some mental space and energy for nothing. Instead, focus on the task at hand. Remember that Where your Attention Goes, the Energy Follows. The Future doesn’t exist, the only moment you can have an impact is the present, Right Here, Right Now.

  • Focus on yourself, not others

Tryouts are a little special in the sense that the main objective is to compare athletes to select some of them. So, it is even more tempting to compare oneself to others… But you can’t control others and the way they play. You can only control yourself. Wondering if this person is better, looks better, will be better etc… doesn’t help at all. Like focusing on the outcome, it only distracts you from being focused on what is important: your game, right here, right now.

  • Trust your skills

Now is not the time to wonder how to improve your move, your shot, your swing, your pass. Trust that you are well prepared, that you know how to do it and avoid overthinking.

  • Have a good attitude

The attitude is very important and sometime even more important than the skills. A player that will bring a hard-working attitude, positive mindset and team spirit (for team sports) have an advantage compared to an equally skilled/talented athlete.

Now that we have seen the 5 tips, here is the extra one: 

  • Have Fun

The reason you practice a sport in the first place is to have fun. Reminding yourself to have fun will help with all the above: it will relieve the pressure, have you focus on the process rather than the outcome, focus on yourself and not on others, trust your skills and have a good attitude.

Eventually, all the techniques I regularly share to deal with nervousness, refocus, like taking deep breaths or using visualization, will be very helpful too, just as in any competition.

If you need some support going into the tryouts, reach out and let’s work on it.

It would be absurd to be afraid of things we’ve dreamed of

photo-by-filip-mroz-on-unsplash.jpg
Rolland Garros is approaching its conclusion and it’s pretty exciting if you love tennis. The big 3 (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) is back in a Grand Slam semi-final all at the same time, joined by one of the best man on clay, Dominic Thiem.

But I what I want to talk about today is a message that was insightful for me as I read an interview from a young French tennis player, Antoine Hoang, who is completely new to the main professional circuit, having played challenger tournaments only for a year and participated to his first Grand Slam tournament at Rolland Garros, having benefited from an invitation. He won his first 2 matches, the second against Verdasco, one top player on clay, in front of thousands of people which was not usual for him and could have added a lot of pressure. But he didn’t let that interfere with his game. “I am happy that I haven’t been overwhelmed by the event”, he said. I thought that it was what I had been dreaming of for a long time. So, I told myself “don’t start to freak out, it would be absurd to be afraid of things we’ve dreamed of. You are where you wanted to be, so there is no reason to be afraid”.

Although it’s not really absurd to be afraid (it’s a normal physiological reaction ingrained in our primitive brain which helped the human beings to survive through millions  of years), I really love this reframe, this shift in perspective and I believe this can be useful for any athlete undergoing fear in an important competition. It’s OK to be scared or nervous. What you don’t want is to be paralyzed by fear and instead keep trusting yourself and switching that nervousness into positive excitement. Remembering that at some point, you dreamed to be in this situation helps do this and go beyond the fear of this new situation. If you are afraid to not be good enough in a new team (high school, college, next level league), remember you dreamed of it, if you are scared to fail at an important competition (state Meet, Nationals, Junior Olympics etc…), remember than you dreamed to be there. And If you are there, you belong. Trust yourself. It would be “absurd” to be afraid of things you’ve dreamed of.

By the way, this applies to any other area in life: a professional promotion, a next level in business, a new relationship, etc…
Take care,

2 tips to deal with stress from a Rollerskater World Champion

Record_du_monde_de_saut_-_Taïg_Khris_-_Paris_2010_-_024

Taïg Khris is a rollerskater,  X games winner and triple world champion and an entrepreneur. I listened to an interview last week where he shared how he used to deal with pressure and stress during his roller competitions (and also when speaking in front of thousands of people). Here are 2 things he said:

  • When his mind kept getting out of focus, with a lot of negative thoughts and doubts (what if I miss my figure?, what if I fall?, will I succeed?, will I get injured? etc..), he then repeated to himself only what he had to do (which figures, etc…) and positive words (It’s going to be OK, I will perform etc…), without stopping, constantly. This prevented his negative thoughts to come in by keeping his mind busy with the task at hand (the process) and the positive things. He is using the same technique when speaking in front of 1000 of people (repeating what he has to say and incorporating positive words). This is a great illustration of what I often speak about: focusing on the process (rather than the outcome), focusing on the positive and on what you want to see happening rather than what you fear can happen, and using power words to reinforce this message. And it works. You can do this whatever your sport is.
  • When the fear was very intense like when he jumped from the 2nd floor of Eiffel Tour and landed on a roller ramp (40m high) in front of 5000 people, his legs were shaking (Note: even the best champions get scared, so you can get scared), he played down by asking himself what was the worst that could happen. He thought he might break his arms or legs (he didn’t really think he could die) and that would be it (not a big deal for him since he broke his arms, legs, ribs, shoulders several times for some of them…). And it helped him relax and go for it. Now, I’m not suggesting to do anything risky by telling yourself you might just get a broken arm or leg, but that everyone can find a way to play down what’s at stake. And usually, in many sports with no big risk like jumping from the Eiffel Tower, the main fear is to fail, make a mistake, lose, etc… And it’s simple (not always easy) to realize that in a bigger picture (the whole season, the whole college years, the whole career, and eventually the whole life), it’s not such a big deal.

So, how can you apply this in your next game, race, school exam or public speaking?

Take care,

Why Mindset is key when going into a soccer game (and in any sport)

Photo by Jannes Glas on Unsplash

Photo by Jannes Glas on Unsplash

Over the past 2 weeks was the round of sixteen of the Champions League (European main soccer competition), where the best out of 2 legs advance to quarter finals (when there is a tie after the 2 legs, the one who has scored more goals away (at the other’s venue) wins).  Here is what I noticed when it comes to the mental approach or the Mindset:

  • On one hand Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to mental approach. Since Quatar invested massively in this club in 2011, they tried to build a top level club, bringing 5 stars players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham and more recently, Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe. And yet, it doesn’t seem to make any progress in this champions league, never able to go past thee quarter final and eliminated in the round of sixteen in the last 2 editions. 2 main events are symbolic of this lack of mental toughness:
    • In the so called “Remontada” in 2017, PSG had won 4-0 against Barcelona in the first leg, and was leading 3-1 after 88min in the 2nd leg despite a feverish way to play. There was no way they could be eliminated since Barcelona needed to win 6-1 to qualify with the “goals away count more” rule. And yet, Barcelona scored three times in the last 7 minutes to get the qualification out of PSG. PSG had gone into the game with fear, backing off instead of playing their game. When fear leads your way to play and you focus more on what you don’t want to happen, it’s actually more likely that it will happen. All had failed, from the coach to the captain and the seasoned players.
    • This year, PSG had won 2-0 against Manchester United in the first leg in England, which was a great result considering they were missing 2 of their strikers (Neymar and Cavani). PSG had shown some character in the first round of the competition, being present, focused and competitive in risky situations, which seemed to indicate they had improved on their mental approach. When Manchester came to Paris for the 2nd leg with 10 main players missing due to injuries or suspensions (so with a C team so to speak), PSG had all the cards in their hand to qualify for the quarter final. And once again, they didn’t put the right intention, the physical impact and the required focus that is mandatory at this level. And at 93min, in the overtime, Manchester obtained a penalty and ended winning 3-1, eliminating PSG. When you can’t rub it in, you are putting yourself at risk.

  • On the other hand, Ronaldo proved why he was the best player in this competition. Transferred from Real Madrid to Juventus Turin last summer, Ronaldo was criticized for his lack of impact in the beginning of the competition. It got even worse when Juventus was beaten 2-0 by Atletico Madrid in the first leg. But Ronaldo is Ronaldo, like Lebron James in the past years. He was super confident that they were going to win and qualify in the 2nd leg at home. He shared that with other players a week before the 2nd leg and in the media a few days before the game. And he amazingly scored three times in the 2nd leg and qualified Juventus almost on his own. The whole team had a great game of course but he was decisive. Not only does he seem to be pressure proof (I’ll talk more about this in a next post), he seems to find ever more motivation and determination when the stakes are higher.

 

There is a key difference between how PSG and Ronaldo approached their games. On one hand, there was a lack of clear intention, lack of focus, lack of the needed fire to get things done, lack of commitment. This might have been due to some fear because of what had happened in the past. And this might have been due to over confidence, as PSG has often been accused of in the past years, which is the belief that you will win without needing to give it all (with some sort of arrogance). On the other hand, there was (ultra) confidence that it is possible AND that you will give it all to make it happen. It’s followed by commitment, intention and focus.

Of course, it’s not all about this, of course not everyone has Ronaldo’s talent, but the more you can put yourself into a confident AND committed, intentional, focused mindset before a game, the better your play will be, the more likely things are to turn to your advantage. And this is true to any sport.

Take care,

Only 10%

Photo by HENCE THE BOOM on Unsplash

Photo by HENCE THE BOOM on Unsplash

This week, I want to illustrate that sometimes, although we might we feel like there is a world between us and what we want to achieve, the gap is not that big.

US tennis player Danielle Collins was the revelation of the women Australian Open Grand Slam tournament, reaching the semi-final for the first time in her career. In quarter final, she managed to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 after losing the 1st set 6-2. In this 1st set, Pavlyuchenkova broke her 3 first serves and Collins was down 5-1. But she didn’t give up nor panic:

Honestly, I lost that set pretty quickly,” Collins said. “But what was going through my mind was that I think I had at least two break points that I didn’t convert. Even though the set was 6-2, it took an hour. I felt like it was very close, regardless of the score. I told myself, ‘Hey, if I can just give a little bit more, 10 percent or 15 percent, I have an opportunity.’ Yeah, I stayed positive through that and kind of weathered the storm.”

I really love the way she didn’t let the score of the 1st set (6-2) mean anything (it could sound like she was hugely dominated) but instead relied on her sensations and analysis.

Lots of us see things as all or nothing, black or white. When it’s not white, it means it’s black, when it’s not all, it’s nothing. No surprise that the gap often feels very big, close to 100% and therefore impossible or at least really difficult to bridge. But if we can see that the gap may be much smaller and ask ourselves what tiny change can I make, where can I give 10% more (energy, focus, calm, determination, precision, …whatever it is that we need), then it’s easier to make the necessary changes, we have more confidence in being able to do it and in the end we can make what feels impossible possible.

If you are racing (running, swimming, cycling) and are used to mentally or physically giving up at a certain point, can you go just 10% further instead of trying to hold the whole race right away?

If you are a golfer, can you manage your emotions 10% better instead of trying to manage them 100% and be even more frustrated if you don’t do it?

Lots of team sport games are very indecisive and focusing on giving 10% more rather than thinking you don’t seem to be able to and won’t find the solution can make the difference.

So, where can you give only 10% more to make a difference?

Take care,

 

 

 

Djokovic, from burn-out and surgery to playing in the zone

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If you want to know what it means to be in the zone, watch Novak Djokovic’s semifinal and final at the recent Australian Open. During this Grand Slam, he progressively increased his level to sharply beat French player Lucas Pouille in semifinal but more surprisingly to give no chance to Nadal in final, who had yet played an amazing tennis until the semifinals and was expected to challenge Djokovic.

After winning the semifinal, Djokovic shared that he was in the zone: “Every professional athlete hopes to reach it”. He describes it as “one of those moments when, almost effortlessly, you execute automatically anything you intend to do. You don’t even need to think anymore. You are guided by a force that is beyond you. You feel divine, like you are in another dimension.  This is an extraordinary feeling we all hope to experience.”

After 18 months of struggle both physically (with an elbow injury ended with surgery) and mentally (first with something that looked like a burn out after winning the 4 Grand Slams in a row and then to rebuild his confidence), Djokovic has become again a winning machine, taking the last 3 Grand Slams. To come back to such a high level, Djokovic has shown, just like Federer and Nadal before him, humility and patience, has worked hard on his technical skills and physical preparation but also on his mental preparation as he shared after winning the tournament. To the question “what would you have answered if you had been told a year ago that you would win the next 3 Grand Slams?”, Djokovic replied:

“That it was not impossible but highly unlikely. I don’t want to look arrogant but I have always believed in myself. This is probably the most important secret of my success. I believe a lot in visualization. I use it a lot. I have used it more than ever in the last 12 months after my surgery, because I was not playing well, I didn’t feel good on the court, I was questioning everything, I was doubting my ability to play at my best level again because I didn’t know how much my surgery would impact my game. This has been an instructive turn for me. I wouldn’t change anything if I could go back.”

We can see that his impressive mental toughness comes from a strong self-confidence, even with lots of doubts along the way, and practicing mental training techniques like visualization. Also named mental imagery, this technique enables the athlete to use the same neural pathways and is great to use when recovering from an injury, when you can’t yet train normally or right after coming back, when you need to work on your moves. It’s also very useful to (re)build your confidence. And it helps to get in the zone, as other mental and emotional skills.

If you want to get a chance to reach the zone, improve your mental and emotional skills. And if you want to know how to improve your mental and emotional skills, you know who to contact.

Take care,

3 parallels between the Aerospace Industry and Sport

Rocket

I’d like to start this Sport Mental Game Coaching year by sharing 3 parallels I made between my experience in the aerospace industry and sport.

  1. Be prepared and ready and focus on what you can control to boost your confidence

As a swimmer, I used to lack confidence in competition. And as I started my career as engineer and quickly project manager in the space industry and for the French and European Space agencies, I had that same lack of confidence at first. I built it with experience of course. But I noticed one thing. The more prepared and the readier I was, the more confident I was. When I had to present and defend a certain position, if I had reviewed all my technical points, prepared my argument, prepared for the questions that might be asked, I was feeling confident. If I was not completely clear, if I had doubts, if I had failed to analyze something, I was not confident. And the more I focused on what I could control (my analyses, my actions, my presentations, etc…) rather than worry on things I couldn’t control (what if something new shows up, what if someone doesn’t understand what I explain, etc…), the more confident I was.

This is the same in sport: if you are prepared (you know you trained well physically, technically, strategically and mentally, you rested well, you ate well), if you feel ready to just do what you have learned, if you don’t let room for doubts, AND don’t focus on what you cannot control (the other opponent, the weather, the referee, what people will think, even just the outcome), then you will be more confident.

  1. Differentiate yourself from your sport and performance

When you work on Rocket launches, you can feel like the whole launch’s success is in your hands…Even if you work on small part of the program, even if you are not the only one to check and validate. It feels like one error can lead to a failure. And it can be overwhelming. It feels like your whole life depends on what’s going to happen. So, I learned to differentiate myself as a person from my job and work. I learned to remind myself that I was just a guy doing his best, doing his part of the job, and that no matter what would happen, I would still be a good person, with another part of my life still there, with family and friends to care for and to be cared from.

When we are passionate and competitive, our sport can take all our mental space. And as soon as we lose, we feel like our whole person is a loser, failed, disappointed others. And it can be devastating, specifically at a young age. So, my invitation for you is to remind yourself as often as possible that, no matter what happens, your sport performance doesn’t define you. You are more than that and if you feel not good enough, that you are less than others, just know that this is not true. There are parts of you, strength, qualities that others don’t have, that may not be seen in your sport and performance and that make you an awesome person overall. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to improve and develop certain qualities and be ambitious, just that you should see the whole picture.

  1. Have Fun

I remember difficult times when we had to work late and hard to clear a launch. It can be draining on the long run. Bringing some fun helped recharge, stay motivated and focused and move on. Even in the tough times, you want to allow some moments of fun, to take the pressure of.

This is the same in sport. If you forget to have fun, you won’t last. If you forget to have fun, you won’t even play at your full potential. If you forget to have fun, what’s the point in training so hard?

Take care,

Self-Esteem, Perspective and Perfectionism through an inspiring Golfer-Puppy Story

Lexi Thompson by Keith Allison

Lexi Thompson – Photo by Keith Allison

I recently read an article in the NYtimes about how Lexi Thompson, the leading American in the women’s golf rankings with a six consecutive years L.G.P.A. title streak, came back to her best after a slump with the help of …. her puppy.

Lexi Thompson had a complicated 2017 year, losing majors, suffering from social media pressure and dealing with personal issues in her family. She also had body-images issues leading to more stress. All this accumulated and led to a sort of burn-out.

When she started to come back, she took her new puppy companion, Leo, “a fluffy six-month-old, five-pound Havanese and miniature poodle mix” with her on the course. Here are 3 takeaways from this story that you can find in full HERE:

  • Self-Esteem comes from within, not from outside. The only way you’ll ever be truly happy,” she wrote, “is if you love yourself first” referring to her body-image issues and quest to look like fashion and fitness models. Build your self-esteem internally rather than just and always seeking external social approval. And know that it takes time and practice.

  • You need to separate yourself as a person from your sport performance. Your sport performance doesn’t define who you are. You are more than that. No matter what happens in the sport arena, you are a valuable person, a human being, doing his/her best, having family, friends, pets to love and to be loved from, going through life like anybody else. As Thompson said referring to her puppy: “No matter what I shoot, this guy is giving me kisses”. I really love this. It also reminds me of the Tennis Player Mischa Zverev who is used to watching his mum in the stands each time he makes a big mistake, because, he said, she is always smiling. Even if he is doing this to refocus (great example of a personal unique way to refocus), this also relates to the need to be reassured and know that even if we fail/don’t perform, we are still a valuable and loved person.

 

  • You are not perfect and that’s OK. As mentioned in the article: “It was instructive, Thompson said, to recognize that she loved Leo all the more because of his unruly ears, something others might see as a defect. On some level, it helped her realize how silly it was to invest so much energy in fixing or hiding flaws. “Yeah, exactly,Thompson said.I mean, everybody has imperfections. We’re all not perfect and we have to own it. Own it and love who you are.” It’s easy to say and yet so hard to really embody. I know it, I’m a perfectionist…

 

So, what are you taking away from this story?  What/Who is your “puppy Leo”?

Take care,

TRUST, CONFIDENCE, TOUGHNESS in Sport

Trust Confidence Toughness

One athlete recently shared with me 3 words she regularly reminds herself of: Trust, Confidence and Toughness. I thought that was a great example of Power Words.

I love these words because they capture many different things all together (which, by the way, may not be exactly what these words meant to this athlete):

  • Trust: it captures the fact that at some point you need to commit yourself to the unknown and to the fact that you cannot control everything. It helps being OK with whatever happens and being detached from the outcome.
  • Confidence: it captures the more inward feeling of believing in yourself, based on what you have previously accomplished and on what you know is true about yourself despite your inner critic and negative thoughts.
  • Toughness: yes, sport is tough. Whether it’s physically through the pain of pushing oneself, through contacts in some sport and through injuries, or mentally when pressure is high and a lot is at stake, during downs in results, when being on the bench in a team sport etc… Being OK with the toughness of your sport will help better deal with it.

Other power words, depending on your personality and on what you may want to improve, could be Relax, Focus, Fun, Energy, Ease.

Words may mean or remind different things to different persons. Pick whatever words which resonate with you and help you be at your best. And really feel and embody their meaning (as opposed to just think about them): if you are reminding yourself of confidence, really embody that, remember your past peak performance to reinforce this feeling, not just believe, know you can make it. If your power word is Relax, really relax physically (your muscles) and mentally (create some space in your mind, slow down etc…). If it is Energy, you may for instance feel a warm and yellow/orange light in your body or sensations of being energized.

Just be creative with your words and feelings. And remind yourself of your power words when practicing, preparing or competing.

So, what are your Power Words?

Take care,

Evan