I was inspired to write this article by a quote I come across from a friend of mine, Melinda Harrison, a former Olympic swimmer who specializes in helping athletes transition from the world of sport to their next great venture.
“If you do not see the wave coming, it can smack you down and pull you under leaving you feeling tossed around, upside down, gasping for breath and picking out sand from areas you never knew existed,” she wrote.
I knew this feeling well in my professional sports career. I was tossed around often. In fact, these waves were blind spots that eventually derailed a professional sports career that had promise. I found myself metaphorically picking sand from areas I never knew existed (far too many times), and I didn’t understand how it was happening.
What are the blind spots in your riding? Those waves you don’t see coming that leave you tossed around and falling short of your capabilities.
Right now is a great time of the year to roll up your sleeves and reflect on what happened in the 2016 show season—what’s been happening in your training this winter—and what you might do in the 2017 show season to get more enjoyment and make some positive strides in your riding. How was your riding year in 2016? Happy with it? Wanting more?
In a reflection exercise, I highly recommend you consider your own blind spots, and what might be subconsciously holding you back from moving forward and getting more out of your riding.
Blind spots damage performance
Working with world-class performers every day, I can assure you that understanding blind spots is important in performance. Almost every performer I have worked with has them, and I expect you do, too. Part of my job is to help these world-class performers identify their blind spots, making sure they have a clear view of what’s beneath their awareness and might therefore be holding them back.
Let’s highlight the idea of blind spots by using my own professional sports career (professional golf) as an example. This may help you start thinking about your own blind spots in your riding and get the wheels turning. I had a few tendencies that were constantly beneath my awareness that kept me on the treadmill and not striding forward on a steady, consistent career path.
A few examples:
- Focusing too much time on the long game in golf, obsessing about it and not allocating more effort to the game from 100 yards and in from the green. I neglected to keep the object of the game in mind (shooting the lowest score possible!).
- Failing to develop my self-awareness. I had limited awareness how my emotions were knocking me around and creating a blurry focus, especially under the pressures of professional golf.
- Not fully understanding the critical impact of others’ expectations on my day-to-day performance.
- No clear path forward. I did not have a well-defined vision or detailed steps in place to guide day-to-day progress and development.
You can imagine how these blind spots could make sustainable progress in my career difficult. Each of the areas above needed attention in order for me to have a better opportunity to reach new levels.
What are your riding blind spots?
What is holding you back that may be beneath your awareness? In the next short while, I encourage you to think about your own blind spots, and also consider some feedback from others who may know your riding. Chances are an honest assessment of your blind spots, and some outside feedback, will shed some light on the factors that are limiting you.
To help you further, here are a few, common equestrian blind spots that I have seen in riders I work with at a variety of levels. Could any of these apply to you?
- Always having to be coached and not putting time in on your own with your parnter to develop your skills—individual training and skill development is key to excellence
- Getting far too caught up in the technical aspect of riding and neglecting the creative component—the feels and horsemanship necessary to adapt
- Not having the discipline to work on weaknesses—working on strengths is fine but weaknesses need to be developed so they don’t limit you
- Having trouble taking your riding skills from the training ground to the show ring and not understanding why
- Losing focus over small mistakes and not being able to get it back on track the rest of the trip (or show)
- It’s either perfect or nothing—you insist on perfection and are never happy with your performance
- Not enjoying your riding as much as you should and not knowing why
These ideas should help you get started on your own assessment. Take some time to think about it in the the next while. Reflection is always an important characteristic in high performers and a key to improvement. Identifying your blind spots is a great first step in understanding what may be holding you back in your game in the ring and from becoming the rider you can be!
About the Author
John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A former professional athlete and current bestselling author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscle to Perform Better and Achieve More…in business, sports and life, John understands how athletes think and feel…he’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. John coaches athletes in all sports and is trusted by some of the world’s leading athletes—professional and elite amateur. See www.johnhaime.com to learn more.