The Importance of “Rituals” for Optimum Performance

Recently, I invited some of our top junior tennis players to perform their best impersonation of several well-known professionals on tour. It was remarkable how good the kids were at this and everyone could easily recognize who they were portraying. What the kids were imitating were these player’s rituals, everyone has seen these routines so many times they become as recognizable as a face or a voice. Often when you bring up the topic of rituals in sports, the discussion transforms to a dialog of athletic superstitions such as wearing the same pair of socks you wore for your first state championship! I point out the way the Broncos season ended last year as a case in point. Most certainly that loss had something to do with the way I put on my Manning jersey or what I had to eat that day, but I’ll be sure to correct these mistakes by next season!

Why do tennis professionals practice pre- and post-match rituals? The brain craves routine. Surprise and spontaneity cause excitement and sometimes stress. A consistent routine makes us feel comfortable and allows our brain to prepare for the task at hand and to focus. During the match, between point rituals basically serve as a reset. The goal is to process everything that happened on the previous point and make a clear plan for the next point. During game change overs, you should review on a broader scale what worked and what didn’t during the previous two games and form a plan for the next two games. Dr. Jim Loehr, a well-known sports psychologist, states that “rituals serve to deepen concentration and raise intensity levels prior to the start of a point.” I hear players talking about “mental toughness,” or the lack thereof, almost on a daily basis. Dr. Loehr says that “mental toughness is really tied to your ability to control a very precise way of feeling. It is a process of emotional fine tuning.” Rituals serve us in managing our feelings and prepare us for what lies ahead. The good news is that mental toughness really is a skill that you can train for; you can learn to be mentally tough! A great place to start is by developing specific pre-serve and return rituals. By becoming more organized and developing a specific plan for what you are about to face, you will naturally begin to develop better tools and become more mentally tough.

It’s common and understandable to focus your attention on things such as groundstrokes, doubles strategy and a serve. Try bringing rituals into the picture. Your practices will become more effective and learning will accelerate.

By Ron Steege, USPTA
rons@GreenwoodATC.com

Blazin’

Okay. Picture this.

You are a camp counselor and today just isn’t your day. Your car breaks down on the way to work; you forget your coffee; you prick yourself with your name tag; the kids seem as tired as you are and cannot agree on a game to play; you get hit in the face with dodge balls at least four times before you vow to stop counting; and by the time your shift is over, your feet hurt, your head aches, and frustration pulses through you.

I hate to say it, but these days do happen. They are greatly outnumbered by the good moments, don’t get me wrong, but when the stress of kid care sneaks up on you, it can be overwhelming to say the least.

However, if you are overcome with this wave of emotion on a Tuesday, you’re in luck! It is a Camp Greenwood tradition for coworkers to unite one day a week to exhale any stress that the day has entailed, reminisce on the high points, and catch up in a relaxed environment. So every Tuesday, we gather at Buffalo Wild Wings to bond over the sticky spice of hot wings.

Much like the intensity of our days at camp, the sauces have a wide range of flavors, spanning from “Sweet BBQ,” which leaves you smiling and licking your fingers, to the fiery insanity that is “Blazin’,” which results in tears on your face, sweat on your forehead, and, well, if you get it in your eye…just ask Lindsey. :)

I tend to stay within the greenish-yellow area on the scale of spiciness at Buffalo Wild Wings because it is safe and comfortable, much like those camp days where the pool feels warm, the kids get along, and there is no reason to fill out an accident report. These days pass by fluidly, but as much as I appreciate the cooperation…it is the little pinch of spice that keeps us on our toes.

Last Tuesday, I caved to the peer pressure of my coworkers and tried a wing that was coated…no, dripping, with “Blazin’” sauce. Upon initially experiencing the subtle tickle in my throat and on my lips, I thought I could handle the impending blaze. But with the passing of each second, as the tickle crept through my sinuses and intensified, I braced myself. Unfortunately for me, no amount of warning could have prepared me for the heat that hijacked my senses.

Basically, I felt like I had just swallowed the sun.

But after a few everlasting minutes, some encouraging words, and a handful of ice cubes later, I was proud to have survived the Blazin’ hot wing.

Just like at the end of a demanding day at camp, I was left with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I would have never been exposed to had I never faced the challenge. The intense moments allow us to appreciate the steady ones that much more.

Will I ever eat a hot wing that spicy again? Absolutely not.

But at the very least, I know that despite camp’s daily trials and tribulations, we, as counselors, can handle them…and at the end of the day, they help us grow.

After all, it is the sugar and the spice that makes our job so rewarding.

Organic Labeling

What does the term “organic” mean? 

Organic crops must have no modifications, be grown in safe soil and be separate from conventional products.  Farmers that grow organic crops cannot use bioengineered genes, synthetic pesticides and petroleum-based or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.  Organic livestock cannot be given antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal-by-products.  They must have outdoor access and be given organic feed.

Benefits of Buying Organic

  • Organic produce contains fewer pesticides.
  • Organic food can be fresher if it is grown nearby, but not always.  You have to know the source.
  • Organic farming practices are better for the environment.  They reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility and use less energy.
  • Is organic more nutritious?  Not necessarily.  We are unclear as to nutrient benefits with organic produce.  One thing’s for sure, just because it is labeled organic, does NOT mean it is automatically healthy!

Organic Labeling

  • 100% Organic – Foods that are made with 100% organic ingredients may display the “USDA Organic” seal.
  • Organic – Foods that contain at least 95% organic ingredients may also display the “USDA Organic” seal, just not claim to be 100% organic.
  • Made with organic ingredients – Foods that contain at least 70% organic ingredients will not display the “USDA Organic” seal, but may list organic ingredients on the front of the package.
  • Contains organic ingredients – Foods that contain less than 70% organic ingredients will not display the “USDA Organic” seal, but may list organic ingredients on the front of the package.   

     

    Kristin Burgess, RD, GATC Dietitian
    kristinb@GreenwoodATC.com