We often emphasize that our athletes need to "Get Out of Their Head." To me, this means to trust yourself that is to trust your body, your instincts, your abilities and to stop over-thinking.
Ironically enough, I'm now about to over-explain a phrase about too much thinking! Regardless, we all let fear of failing and falling, obsessions with doing activities "right", doubts of ability, and other factors get in the way of better performance. So much of AccesSportAmerica's beginnings were based on getting people living with challenges out on the water before they could over-think the activity. It's still the way we operate. That is, we get people going and trust that the process will work. We could be windsurfing using a stander with someone who doubts they could last more than a minute, or sculling in an adaptive seat when they couldn't balance in a power chair without a seat belt, or even hitting a tennis ball with good pace without functional grip beforehand. In short, these sports inspire function and any of us, challenged or not, just by trying will almost always surpass our preconceptions.
Last month, Graham Ezzy, a world-class windsurfer, taught with us for a couple of days. We showed our athletes videos of Graham windsurfing during our programs at Mass. Hospital School and Camp Harbor View. The videos and just being near an athlete of such extraordinary skill and grace were an awe-inspiring experience for everyone. With each group, Graham began by essentially saying - 'To become good at windsurfing or anything in life, you have to fall.' He told us not to care about what anyone thought or even what we thought ahead of time. Great athletes have to fail and fall - if they're not falling, then they're not going to excel. That is essentially just getting out of our heads and trying to improve ourselves and our lives.
If we thought too much about our endeavor with sports and training to improve function, fitness and improve lives, we might not have ever started AccesSportAmerica. We certainly are safe and take precautions - we've never had a serious injury in the 12+ years since AccesSportAmerica was founded. But we do take risks of being hopeful and the risk of believing we can gain much more physical, cognitive and emotional function. More times than not, we witness the greatest gains when an athlete just forgets everything and simply does something remarkable like pushing a chair and making a remarkable reach to get a ball in tennis or windsurfing for an hour with a standing bar when they lasted only 5 minutes in a clinical stander before.
This summer has been a great season in our history of great seasons. It is great because we had more trainers than ever, assuming remarkable feats on the water. They just helped our athletes "do" what they could do with ability and trained instinct. Certainly something we all need to learn.