In skiing and in other sport down the years, I’ve always been interested in gaining a performance advantage, however marginal. This could be in making sure that my equipment is the best it could be and well looked after, making sure I’m fit and flexible but the one I have been most interested in up to now (and had never really taken that seriously) was the mental side of sport.
In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned times where I’ve been on a ski exam and been somewhat in the wilderness mentally, not focused on the task or not generally in the right headspace to achieve anything good. I specifically remember a Wednesday in Verbier skiing about when I was supposed to be practicing, wondering what the point of it all was.
So when it came to something that I really did want, in this case, The Swiss International Equivalence course, I decided to do some work to mentally prepare, as well as the extensive ski training leading up to it. I’ve read a number of books on the subject specifically with regard to visualising goals either in detail or in an abstract way and formed an idea of what my process looked like. I used to do a similar pre shot visualisation thing when I was playing golf back in the day.
I imagined a door, which had ‘Dave’s skiing’written on it. It was a pretty low key red door, nothing special at all, when you opened it up and walked in, you walked into a corridor which had a number of doors, all open that lead down a corridor. As you walked down the corridor as through each open door, each one had the name of an exam written on it. The first had ‘BASI 1’ written on it and so on. I didn’t fail anything for quite a while so there were many doors to walk through, all with some sort of achievement or exam pass.
In itself, this was a good feeling and I had a sense of achievement and just how far I had come professionally as I walked through each door. Eventually, I came to a couple of doors which were located on the side of the corridor, these were locked and these represented various exams that I had taken and failed. I wasn’t able to walk through these doors.
I continued down the corridor past some locked doors and there on the left was a door with a big, thick, solid oak door. This door had ‘Swiss Snow Sports’ written on it and it was just slightly open, through the ajar door, I could see a glowing light, as if from a fireplace and hear some warm chatter from inside.
Before I carry on, I should mention that this took a while to come together, to fill the images with color, to ‘see’ that some doors were locked but most open. I would say that in the months leading up to the test, I was probably going through my visualisation every other night, most often as I was just dropping off to sleep in the evening.
After some time, I was eventually able to put my hand on the handle of the door and open it, it took some further time to be able to see my foot crossing the threshold of the room and stepping in. Looking back now, I can see that I was able to do this more as my personal level of skiing got better and I became more confident of what I needed to do for the Swiss Tests.
Once I was in the room, it was much like you would imagine a cozy snug room in an old school type private club in London. Wood panels on the wall, leather couches, deep luxurious carpets and a roaring fire. Why the Swiss Snowsports room should be like this in my mine is anyone’s guess, I’m not here to be judged, just tell you the process 🙂
After a while, I was able to stand in this room for extended periods without feeling like I shouldn’t be there. Initially, I wasn’t able to do this and felt pressure to leave immeadiately. Most times, just getting into the room meant that was the end of the exercise and I would already be asleep or I would just snap out of my visualisation and get on with whatever I was doing.
The most significant thing about the visualisation for me was the moment of stepping with my foot from the corridor into the cozy room. In reality, this was the image that I used the most whilst I was on the exam. The exam itself, as I mentioned in this blog post here, only allowed you one go at the test in question, no room for errors. Often in skiing exams, you are waiting at the top for the examiner to wave at you letting you know that’s it’s your turn to show them what you can do. It was during this wait that I closed my eyes and imagined that exact moment of stepping into the room.
For the very last run of the test, waiting at the top of the zip line moguls run, traditionally my nemesis, I was able to shut my eyes and walk over the threshold of that room. I opened my eyes, everything was calm and I then put down a decent run.
The power of the mind in sport is still very underrated in my opinion. If this helps anyone to get an advantage, however small, then I am happy to have shared my process.