The book Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool reveals tremendous insight into the process of optimum performance in sport and other unique endeavors. This places it in ideal alignment with the goals and vision of the Sport, Energy and Consciousness (SEC) Group. Moreover, what the authors term mental representation, holds the same principles of optimum mind/body achievement long professed by the SEC Group teachers/ authors. Therefore, the relationship of this book to the work of the SEC Group has a connection worth serious comparative analysis.
PEAK describes the practice for optimum functioning of top-flight individuals from London taxi drivers, to concert violinists, to those who can memorize long lists of digital numbers. The authors explain how strongly committed individuals perfect their learning abilities and pinpoint how these changes take place in mind/body structures. As the SEC Group prepares for its second sport festival and is scrutinizing the elements of a focused ‘curriculum’, the book PEAK provides a framework that verifies the authentic pathways of our mission.
Analysis of the Concept of Deliberate Practice
PEAK is instructional in that teaching how one practices is as important as the hours applied to a dedicated endeavor. While everyone partaking of the approaches of the SEC Group is not focused on being a top-notch elite athlete, the tenets of deliberate practice are substantial and will improve anyone’s quest for excellence. Therefore, guidance needed to improve purposefully, albeit without familiarity.
In presenting our 2nd sports festival, we are committed to teaching people how to take the necessary steps to reaching a state of relaxed awareness and mindfulness, or the multiple phrases we use to define fuller awareness, into our games, endeavors and the lives we live.
For example, in PEAK’s description of both expert rock climbers and surgeons, there are skills that are advanced by practice on mental representation. They explain correctly that rock climbers will look over an entire wall and visualize the path they are going to take, seeing themselves moving from hold to hold. Surgeons often visualize an entire surgery before making the initial incision. These mental representations are one of the most important skills to be developed in the process of mastery, and various SEC Group approaches to personal growth can illuminate and accelerate this process.
There are lessons to be discovered, for learners and teachers, from reading PEAK. For instance, you may be new to mind/body integration and, in the beginning, sailing right along making progress on relaxation goals and instituting connective skill sets and then, as PEAK describes inevitably, “You may run into something that stops you cold and it seems like ‘you’ll never be able to do it’.” This is the moment that choosing from among the SEC Group teaching options from our founding members, as well as the growing group of experts joining our circle, and find the right approach and discipline for adding mental connection training to your overall sport or life goal practice.
Presently, more affilitate organizations, mind/body teachers, experts in delivery systems, and supportive individuals and groups are joining our SEC Group. As we move towards a greater appreciation of the ways individuals and teams can enter states of fuller awareness our work becomes more focused and specific. At our second SEC sport festival, the principles such as described and applied in PEAK are there to ‘try on for size’ along with panels and experts in our cadre of leaders and contributors with their mind/body approaches to achievement.
Contributions of SEC Founding Members
The core teachings of the SEC Group are a basis for mental training plans and advancements. The theoretical lineage that develops from the Esalen Sport Center to ITP (Integral Transformative Practice) is fashioned on philosophies of George Leonard and Michael Murphy and has evolved insto the SEC Group. For instance, within the SEC Group faculty of teachers are experts that can provide guidance in the “move towards your fuller self;” as it applies to your dedicated endeavors.
Whether is is intentionally creating the peak performance state of flow as Scott Ford teaches, warm-up and katas of selective awareness or forming a community of like-minded philosophical seekers as Barry Robbins forms, becoming present to explore the perameters of your bigger self and mind, that is the fortay of David Meggyesy, making a committment to optimum mind & body sport skills training in periodic sequencing towards full event rehearsal of Mike Spino, self exploration of the vital energetic areas of your body to calm and reinergize yourself that Greg Warburton teaches, or noticing and enjoying and being part of the energetic atmosphere as Rick Leskowitz film the Joy of Sox depicts.
Catherine Widgery: THE PERSONIFICATION OF PEAK DELIBERATE PRACTICE
An example of an athlete who has benefited from and inculcated deliberate practice into her training is SEC Group affiliate, high- level Master’s rower, Catherine Widgery. She is a single sculler ranked in the top three in the world in her age group for the past three years. With hours of physical, mental, emotional, and energetic training she is a paragon of focused, deliberate practice.
Recently she wrote about being influenced by the book Peak as well as her work with Greg Warburton (SEC founding member). Actually what has struck me about what the authors of Peak say about achieving mastery has less to do with the sheer number of hours of practice and more to do with the quality of the ‘deliberate practice’. Hours alone don’t really do much, in fact, if they are not thoughtful and conscious hours, they may actually be detrimental since bad habits can be laid down in neural pathways that then become hard to rewire.
I’ve already started to change my approach to erging (which is working out on the rowing machine, something all competitive rowers have to do a great deal of to stay fit). In the past, I would watch videos of elite rowers while I erged thinking that was a good idea (and it may be to help develop a clear mental representation) but it meant that I was not fully conscious of keeping perfect form on every stroke. I have, since reading Peak, been fully present on each stroke and my splits have been very competitive with the other women in my age group who keep track of these things on a site developed for training, without my even trying to ‘row hard.’ In other words I’m working on deliberate practice and seeing results already.
Catherine also worked on developing her emotional energy with Greg Warburton by applying his EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) integrated into her training. She writes, “Greg I’m so grateful for all your work with me on my mental training.” Coach Warburton adds, “She is a great student of my mental-and-emotional self-management mastery and selecting positive (power) performance phrase language.” So it is not only the mental representation but the energetic inner discovery that is an output of rightful, deliberate practice as well.
MOVING TO THE MIDDLE: DELIBERATE PRACTICE IN ACTION!
We are beginning to really understand the essence of what the book PEAK is connoting. Not surprisingly, they echo the concepts of the pioneer of mental training application, the icon and legendary mental training coach, Swedish born Dr. Lars Eric Unesthal. He has taught, researched and demonstrated the effectiveness of mental training for over 50 years.
He writes “All performance improvement, including mental training, takes time, and it should be done in unison and at the same period of training sequentially with an aspect of physical training”. In an exclusive SKYPE interview with English author, Ed Hawkins, (who attended the first SEC sport festival, who is researching a book on the roots and present basis of mental training for sports which will soon be published in the UK).
Unesthal elaborated on his practical and research findings and beliefs. He explained that it takes 100-150 hours of inner work to be ready to effectively apply the most sought after elements of mind/body connectedness. Once relaxation and awareness is established, effective sport skill applications can better be accomplished. Unesthal further explained that, “Because the prerequisite of deep relaxation that allows the mind/body to ward off the antagonistic thoughts that block clear sport skill visualization it is a crucial first step.” Dr. Unesthal’s insights completely validate descriptions within PEAK of other expert quests in such areas as classical violin.
WHAT IS YOUR OPTIMUM AMOUNT OF DELIBERATE PRACTICE?
These 100-150 hours of initial mental training to become a proficient mind/body athlete may seem a preposterously large amount of time to dedicate to one phase of sport training. However, put in the perspective of the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice Ericson, Unesthal’s protégé and Pool define in PEAK as necessary to achieve optimum results, and it does not seem an unreasonable. Remember this total is for an elite high-level champion athlete.
Most reading this article are not world level, and aren’t seeking 10,000 hours in any expert-seeking endeavor. On the other hand, most sportsmen interviewed comment that 50% of their sport is mental. Yet, when questioned about mental training in their training regimen many admit to devoting very little time to mental representation training. Especially those, ‘catching up’ with their teammates spend less time on planned mental practice. As they shun this aspect of their deliberate practice, they often fall behind even further and eventually become discouraged, and quit, or settle for a less ambitious goal.
THE TRUTH OF IMPROVED PERFORMANCE EMERGES
PEAK allows elite and striving athletes and coaches to get ‘behind the screen’ of performance and discover what is required via the principles of deliberate practice. David Meggyesy, an SEC Group founding member, an author, and networking theorist confirms this primary commitment as essential. He states, “My view is if we can get coaches to begin incorporating Integral Training Practices, in the proper sequence, and do it every day as a regular part of training, we will be offering a real service in the direction and impact we want to have on the coaching world.”
David is on target and thinks now is the time to stand firm and let students and coaches know making a commitment and deliberate practice cannot be overlooked or bypassed. By looking at the SEC Group website, you will gain insights into how to apply the principles of deliberate practice to your sport or life endeavor.
MASTER COACHES ASK NO LESS THAN YOUR ALL
For myself, having trained in distance running with the greats of the last hundred years (Mihlay Igloi of Hungary and Percy Cerutty of Australia) and in mental practice with Esalen Institute founder Michael Murphy, and Dr. Lars-Eric Unesthal, I know first hand the focus and passion necessary for effective deliberate practice. Many days when I finished training Murphy, we would discuss the fine points of applied mental practice. Alternatively, he would spend the evening looking out on the San Francisco shoreline for hours in mental reflection. Even the true masters never let up on their deliberate practice.
Reflections of a Venerable Coach
In reading PEAK, I reminisce on forty plus years of coaching middle distance runners. Just this year, I took on teaching a high school team in their journey of the 10,000 hours to optimum performance. Through their ‘optimistic’ energy I am invigorated to endure the hours involved in teaching them the fine points of training and in leading them through the plateaus of their mental and physical development.
I am reminded of the responsibility of passing on the wisdom and the pathway to effective optimum performance. It is necessary to not allow the lineage to diminish and to pass it on to the next generation.
Responsibilities for passing on expert knowledge
When a coach becomes too distracted, or lazy, to push the tyro beyond their comfort zone he/she impedes the passing on of the traditions. Remember, fellow coaches, your charges don’t know where the journey is headed, and their open trust of you is a sacred belief that has existed for centuries between the learned master and student.
You, my coaching friend, are responsible for furthering them to where the veil opens and they break through to a new level of ability and awareness. At these moments, the zest and love for the sport really hits. It is worth carving out another pathway-devoted individuals to becoming integrated into the sport. This is why teachers in their 90’s continue to coach
My website True Champion is also instructional regarding the actual steps, through Periodic Sequencing Techniques (sm) to manifest your sport goals and ambitions.
INVITATION TO SEC SPORT FESTIVAL 2
It is the SEC Groups hope that this article interests you to attend the 2nd SEC Groups Sport, Energy and Consciousness Sport Festival (2017) June 23-25 at Dominican College in San Raphael, CA this summer. You will discover for the first time, or renew your passion for reaching the pinnacle of the sport experiences we all treasure and strive for. Look to our website for upcoming details.
* Author Dr. Michael Spino thanks Catherine Widgrey, Greg Warburton and David Meggyesy for input and collaboration on this article and review.