Finding Your Voice

4 Nov 2010
By: Jennifer Hamady
Published at Psychology Today

“That performance anxiety is a barrier is not news to most of you. But what may come as a surprise is that its status as such only exists when another much larger barrier is already in place: the perception of the performance as a performance, rather than as a communion, a conversation and a connection.”

Read the full story here.

1 thought on “Finding Your Voice

  1. MGrodski Post author

    Field athletes – typically long jumpers, high jumpers, and pole vaulters – connect with spectators to unleash the energy of a stadium. The athlete bridges the gap between themselves on the field and those in the stands by inviting spectators to join them in building up for their acceleration and jump. Spectators reciprocate by clapping slowly at first, then building into a crescendo which the athlete uses to launch into their effort. The outcome is that athlete and spectator unite in the effort minimizing performance anxiety for the athlete and opening them to being supported, even pushed on, by the energetic goodwill flowing in the stadium.

    One athlete in particular – not a field athlete but a track athlete – has not only borrowed this strategy but has rewritten the manual on how to engage a stadium filled with spectators. Usain Bolt`s ‘thunderbolt’ posture draws roars from the stands, his pre-race routine which verges on comedy at times gains him a powerful boost, physically, mentally and undoubtedly emotionally. Usain has mastered this strategy which has become yet another competitive edge for him. As a result, whenever he runs towards a finish line he is fueled by the energy of thousands upon thousands of spectators, with record after record to prove it.

    In field events, only one athlete competes at a time as the others wait and watch. The stadium is never forced to decide to support one athlete over another. Yet in the 100m race, there are typically 8 runners in a heat and the stadium cannot distinctly cheer for each athlete individually. When any athlete faces off against Usain Bolt, they aren’t running against Bolt alone, but against the goodwill of everyone in attendance. It makes one think….how does any other sprinter stand a chance?

    Jennifer Hamady suggests that any peak performance occurs when the performer (e.g. an athlete) embraces their environment as opposed to channeling it out, or distancing themselves from it. It is not through separation, but through connection that the athlete is able to achieve a penultimate moment because instead of wasting energy to isolate themselves, athletes can free themselves to receiving the collective goodwill of all spectators.

    Like everything else….connecting with spectators is a skill. Athletes pursuing peak performance need to learn, develop, and refine this skill, so that it is available to them as yet another strategy during competition.

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