What Makes You An Expert?

Experts recognize patterns. They started out, as we did, frustrated as hell with this stupid game. I’d bet that Lionel Messi swung and completely missed the football when he was five years old, just like you and I did, hoping that no one saw. Gary Kasparov made idiotic opening moves that caused him to lose in minutes. Laird Hamilton fell over and over and over. But in slow, glacial, barely noticeable steps, they improved and got really, really good. So

We Are All Natural Athletes

When was the last time you watched an athlete do something like this (watch from 1:40) and think “natural athlete”? I do. We all do. It’s a handy explanation for why we don’t throw everything to the side and find our limits, because let’s face it, you’re just not naturally talented.   But it’s unfair to the athlete to say that their talent is natural, that they were born with it. These athletes are made, through hard effort. They don’t

Why We Watch Sports

There is a moment after Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon: standing to the side during the ceremony for just a moment, he wrapped his arms around The President’s Trophy and grinned down at the gleaming surface, content and happy. It lasted just a second or two and revealed the four year old boy inside the man. That kid wanted to win Wimbledon twenty years ago. In early July, 1977, I saw my first tennis match at Wimbledon on television. We didn’t have

Why You Don’t Quit

We strain to improve, each of us separately and all of us, as a species. You’re motivated to get better, pushed by forces inside and often outside of yourself: Hunger, thirst, your dad, your mom, your coach, your deep fear of what happens if you fall short of your goal, your hatred of the bite of losing. It’s obvious to talk about motivation in sport because the goals are clear and discrete. The score tells the world if you succeeded,

Three Keys to Peak Performance

Katie asked a great question about the elements of peak performance in a comment from an earlier post: Imagine that you were asked to speak to your favorite college sports team about the topic of peak performance. What 3 major points would you emphasize about how to be great? If it’s a college team, the athletes have been in their sport for over ten years. So any discussion about motivation, preparation and WHY they play the game would be simply

Why England Will Never Win The World Cup

One of the worst names I was ever called on the soccer pitch was a “head-the-ball”. The insult was delivered by a spotty, bean-pole left winger called ‘Spangles’ whose hardened North Side of Dublin football team were scoring on my team almost at will. I’d brought Spangles down hard after he’d twisted me around on his third trip towards goal and he was pissed. Being a head-the-ball meant that you were stupid, thick, useless and was spat out in contempt.

Why The Secret to Great Movement Is Not What You Think

On spring afternoons in college, I’d sit in the bleachers and watch the varsity tennis team practice. It was relaxing to sit out in the Bay Area sun after classes and listen to the deep thump of a well-hit shot. The first players to arrive would grab a court and lazily stroke the ball from baseline to baseline not really moving their feet, the tennis equivalent of treading water. The rallies lasted for ten, twenty sometimes thirty shots before a

Does Stress Make You Better?

You get better because you adapt to stress. You lift weights that create microtears in your muscles and then they heal stronger than before. You sit, clueless and scared, in the driver seat of a car for the first time with your heart pounding out of your chest as you struggle to master the clutch, the stick shift and the narrowing road while tuning out the yammering of your dad’s instructions in your ear. One day, you get in the

Are You Better Than Matt Halliday?

Matt Halliday is better than you. Of course he is, you say, it’s because he’s gifted. He makes hitting a ball moving at 95 mph look easy. He has to be better than me.  I could never do that. You’re right, you can’t. But remember, hitting is a very specific skill. I’ll bet you could beat him at chess, Jeopardy or pretty much anything else you can think of.  Except for the one thing that he’s been constantly practicing since

How To Pick the Next John Elway

Imagine you own a pro sports team. Let’s make it specific: You own a team in the National Football League. You’re sitting in your plush office chair in your mahogany-detailed office a few weeks after the last game; the halls are quiet. You’re thinking one thing: Who should I add to my team to make sure we win next season? The Stakes are High There’s a lot at stake: a winning season makes it more attractive to free agents, allows

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