A book that probably every competitive athlete would benefit by reading is Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack with David Casstevens.
As a sports psychology consultant who has worked with professional athletes in every major sport, Gary Mack understands the mental side of competition. He provides many quotes, anecdotes, and lessons to help athletes in any sport get a better understanding of how to use the mind to their advantage.
It’s interesting that Gary Mack started a career of studying “the psychology of stress and the psychology of success” because of a figure skater–Scott Hamilton. After watching Scott Hamilton win the 1984 Olympics, Mack was intrigued by Hamilton’s coment during an interview in which he attributed his success to being mentally prepared. Scott Hamilton’s comment was:
Under pressure you can perform fifteen percent better or worse.
Scott Hamilton said he benefitted by using the attitude that the hard work was over and the Olympics performance was a time to enjoy. Mack refers to another figure skater, Sarah Hughes, as an example of an athlete who performed–and won–out of pure enjoyment at the Olympics.
A quote in the book by major league baseball players Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. gives the same message:
When you have fun, it changes all the pressure into pleasure.
While it’s debatable whether having fun changes all the pressure into pleasure, there’s no doubt it can change a lot of it, giving a completely different experience and outcome. My daughter, Christina, found that to be true with ice dance. Her love of performing has often helped her perform very well in competition and enjoy the competitive experience in the process.
Although “The Pressure Principle” is just one chapter in the book, it is one of the foundational concepts. This is a book athletes–and anyone else in competitive situations–can read over and over, gaining something new each time.