Attention All Hockey Players: Are You Training For The Zone?
The Zone is a “self-surpassing dimension of human experience. Its characteristics include deep concentration, highly efficient performance, emotional buoyancy, a heightened sense of mastery, a lack of self-consciousness, and self-transcendence.” — Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
“When you get in that zone, it’s just this supreme confidence that you know it’s going in… Things just slow down. Everything slows down… You don’t focus on what’s going on around you because you could lose it in a second. Everything just becomes one noise… You have to really try and stay in the present… You don’t think about your surroundings, what’s going on with the crowd or the team. You’re kind of locked in. What it is, you start seeing where guys are going before they get there. It gives you the effect of the game being in slow motion.” Comments by Kobe Bryant sometime after scoring 81 points in a game.
It’s funny, really, how an athlete can train their entire lives: developing physical strength, balance & coordination, skills & technique, but when it comes to obtaining a supreme mentality, tapping into a state of being often referred to as ‘the Zone’, it’s just something that either happens for you or doesn’t happen… as if saying, “I hope I get lucky and increase my on-ice productivity by 500% in tonight’s game…”, and then hope for the best.
As a professional hockey player, I knew the importance of training my mind and I understood the significance of staying calm & focused in the heat of competition, but it wasn’t until later on in my career that I really grasped the immense impact that ‘tapping into the zone’ could do for my game. I often heard people referring to ‘the Zone,’ and I even experienced it myself on a few occasions. But I never specifically trained for it, nor did I even hear anyone training for it themselves. I was fortunate to work with a number of sports psychologists, but I was never taught ways to really obtain a higher state of being, the place where Kobe says everything happens in ‘slow motion’, everything is ‘one’, you have a ‘knowing’, and you’re ‘locked in’ to the ‘present moment’.
So I started asking myself, ‘how do I train for that!?’
Long story short, I realized training to be in the zone is unheard of because it’s a mystical experience in itself…
When you talk about being in the present moment, or altered states of space & time, you’re talking about a mindless state, where you go beyond your mind. And when you go fully beyond your mind, you experience the truth that time does not exist, you experience that you are not your mind, and you realize that intuition is very real….
Read that again: time does not exist, you are not your mind, and your intuition is very real…
Today, I’m such a large advocate of yoga & meditation because I’ve experienced these practices as key components in helping players get into that mindless, intuitive, higher dimension of being. Meditation is a mindless state in itself, it heightens your awareness and allows you to see things more clearly, it helps reduce the stress & anxiety that you experience on the ice (the same stress & anxiety that hinders your ability to tapping into the zone), it develops deep concentration & intense focus, and it even enhances your creativity. Yoga (meaning ‘union’) has its own list of benefits: improving your oxygen intake, bringing you back to the present moment, controlling negative thoughts, and making you feel like ‘one’, as Kobe referred to it.
As modern science evolves in its understanding of the mind, it continuously points back towards the ancient techniques of yoga & meditation. So, for any hockey player who is truly serious about moving onto the next level, improving their numbers, or developing their game, here’s the free strategy: put down the Tinder, Instagram, Twitter or dare I say, the Pokemon Go, and start a daily yoga & meditation practice.
I’ll be the first to say, starting this new practice and developing it as a habit is probably the most difficult part, however, I guarantee that if you do you’ll greatly enhance your skill of tapping into the zone. Just give yourself a chance, start a daily meditation practice for 15 minutes, twice daily.