page21image18258640nyone who has spent any time in- volved in any form of competitive athletics fully realizes the importance of mental con- trol. Hitting a baseball, spiking a volleyball, and catching a football all require a high degree of mental concentration. Tommy Kono, the great Olympic and world weightlifting champion of the 50s and 60s, contented that success in competitive weightlifting was 75% mental and 25% physical. Other authorities give varied percentages, but each and every one does agree that the athlete who gets his mental processes together has an edge.

Observe a Larry Pacifico, Doug Young, Mike Bridges, David Rigert or V a s i l y Alexeev in action and one is immediately impressed, not only with their awesome physical power and strength, but also with their platform poise and confidence. Quite often, the specific weights they elevate are forgotten, but what remains in the viewer’s mind is a picture of their composure and self- assurance.

Achieving Self-Confidence

While it is a fact that this self-confidence grows out of many years of experience, it is not necessarily a function of experience. I have witnessed many veterans completely blow it on stage. They exhibited unsureness from the time they weighed-in, I have also seen athletes competing for the first time in a National Championship who displayed this self-same confidence that the great cham- pions possess. So, while experience is often a positive factor, it is not necessarily “the” reason that these athletes are composed and self-assured. Practice does not necessarily make perfect. If the practice itself is faulty, then the end result will be faulty. So it is with mentalcontrol.

What these champions do have in com- mon is an ability to tap into their huge mental reserves. They have learned how to utilize their mental energy on the lifting platform. Everyone possesses this energy, but only a very few take advantage of it. In most cases, this energy is either wasted, or worse, backfires and works against the athlete.

This vast energy is available to all, but how it is utilized varies from individual to in- dividual. Those who learn to put this energy into the lifts achieve a higher level of per- sonal success. Those who do not find that this energy makes them extremely nervous. Their thinking becomes clouded, their con- centration shattered, and performance is adversely affected.

This vast energy is available to all, but how it is utilized varies from individual to individual. Those who learn to put this energy into the lifts achieve a higher level of personal success.

Everyone is nervous at a competitive event. It is the nature of the species. Some display it more than others. Some com- petitors talk incessantly, never sitting still or shutting up. They are like steam kettles about to explode. They are, in fact, blowing off tremendous amounts of energy. The “talkers and pacers.” Merely observing them tends to make one tired. I always tried to avoid them as you can get contact high byjust being around them.

The other end of the pole is the athlete who is so nervous that he becomes catatonic. He never speaks and rarely moves. While this may appear to be a desirable posture, it is in fact as self-defeating as the overly-talkative individual. The eyes and breathing of the worry-wart betray him. His pupils are glazed and he looks through people, not at them. His breathing is shallow and irregular. He is not, by any measure, under mental control. Both are burning up valuable juice. The one is externalizing his nervousness and the other internalizing it. Neither is desirable as both are wasting energy.