This article was originally published on Michael Somppi's website.
When trying to accomplish something great you must possess both patience and faith. Patience, for greatness is not achieved in a small time frame but is derived from countless hours of practice. Faith, for you must believe in yourself and your game plan. By game plan I am referring to your practice methods and your big picture plan to achieve greatness.
Last year I pushed myself to the limit and then pushed it further during the training season. In my exhausted state, my performances began to suffer and I gradually lost faith in my game plan. I ran out of patience and yearned for a quick fix. My confidence was shattered.
What I have learned from this experience is the importance of patience and faith. This season I am attempting to utilize patience and faith to help me reach greater performance levels.
How am I doing this? For me it begins with understanding the big picture plan. At the beginning of the season I discussed the outlines of a big picture plan with my coach. We each gave our input on all aspects regarding ski training, such as training hours, technique focuses, intensity focuses, mental health, strength training, performance goals etc. My coach then worked to develop a big picture plan taking all these aspects into account. I reviewed the plan, asked questions about anything I didn’t understand and suggested any tweaks I could think of. A big picture plan like this isn’t set in stone; it is constantly in flux, being modified to accommodate changes in logistics, energy, health, etc. Ideally however, the method/process and overarching goal of the big picture plan will not change and understanding the method/process of this plan helps me to have faith and confidence in the plan.
Once I have developed my big picture plan and clearly understand the method/process of the plan, then I can make smarter decisions when modifying it because I am better able to keep the priorities of my plan as a focus and the overarching goal in mind. For me it’s important to maintain good honest communication with my coach regarding my energy levels as I have a tendency to over do it. My coach can then provide suggestions and remind me to not stray from my plan’s priorities.
Where patience and faith come into play most for me is during the transition period from training to racing. During the training season it’s ok to be really tired sometimes. It’s not a big deal if your performance in a workout is not at its pinnacle. When you hit the race season though, that all changes. Making this shift is difficult for me. Coming out of the training season I am generally not performing at my peak right out of the gate, my body takes some time to transition. There is a recovery period after the training season and a sharpening period over the first few weekends of racing. After working so hard all year it can be challenging mentally to stay the course when performances are initially below expectations. I need to have patience and faith that my plan will lead me to success.
To give you a concrete example of what I am talking about, this season I started out racing on the Super Tour circuit in the U.S. I had completed a very good month of training in November and my body was feeling a little worn out when I travelled to the first weekend of races which also happened to be at an altitude of 2000m (making the recovery process a little slower). I was ranked in the top 6 for each race. I finished 35th and 23rd. Frustration. Disappointment. The next weekend on the Super Tour I was again ranked in the top 6 for both races and finished 34thand… 13th. A glimpse of light. On to the next weekend, the first NorAm of the season: similar level of competition and I finished 3rd and 4th. Now I was mixing it up with guys who were dusting me the past two weekends. In the final weekend of NorAm racing before Christmas, I finished 13th and 3rd. My 3rd place performance was probably my best effort of the early season.
According to my big picture plan I was on track. The training I completed in November was critical to providing a strong foundation so I could perform well in January and February. The tradeoff was jeopardizing my performances in December a little. For this big picture plan to work I had to be patient and have faith in the plan. I had to understand why I wasn’t performing to my potential at first and that the present struggle would be worth it later in the season. When you are a competitive person it’s really hard mentally to perform below your expectations. Last year I was unable to move past this mental barrier. I lost faith, lost patience, and lost confidence. My racing suffered all season as a consequence. This season I battled to stay patient, maintain faith and be confident through those difficult early season races. I stayed the course. Sure I was frustrated, but I didn’t let it shatter my resolve. As a result, my performances improved according to plan and so did my confidence.
Sport is not rosy all the time. You could replace sport with life in that sentence if you want to get philosophical. The greats don’t win every time they compete. In fact, even the greats lose more than they win. “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan. If you want to achieve something great not only do you need a well thought out plan, you also need patience and faith to help get you through the hard times that you will face along your path to greatness.