“I really didn’t say everything I said,” said famous RS Aero sailor, Yogi Berra, but apparently he really did venture into sports psychology and impart some words of wisdom about the importance of the mental game. This gem about ninety percent of the game being half mental is also often reported as, “Ninety percent of this game is mental. The other half is physical.”
Of course the saying (in either form) is almost as much nonsense as the James Clear graph about how to get 37.78 times better at something in one year that I discussed in How to Slowly Sail Faster. What’s the point of quantifying something you can’t even measure?
But there is an essential truth in Yogi’s quote. The mental side of the game is important. As I wrote in Annoyingly Quick, when I have a day – or even just one race – when I seem to be able to sail better than my usual mediocre meanderings around the course, I am in a totally different mental state. It doesn’t happen very often (maybe about once a year in average.) But if I could only find a way of getting in that mental zone more often…
Apparently a lot of coaches these days break down the essential skills of a sport into four categories – not just two.
1. Mental Fitness
2. Physical Fitness
3. Mechanics – what we usually refer to as “boathandling” in sailing.
4. Tactics/ Strategy – racing skills in the sailing context.
I think this could be a useful framework to think about my many deficiencies as a racing sailing and to consider what skills I should be working on. In the last few years, since buying an RS Aero, I have been focusing a lot of my time on boat handling. For example this year quite a lot of practice time has been spent on trying to improve my tacking after the feedback I received at the RS Aero Clinic with Marc Jacobi in Sarasota. Sure I have done a few things to keep fit too, but I have almost totally ignored the other two areas of mental fitness, and race strategy and tactics.
I guess it’s the the approach of Resolution Season aka The New Year that has got me thinking about how I can work on all four areas in 2019. But that will be the topic of a whole other post.
How about you? If you are a racing sailing, how would you grade yourself in the four areas listed above? What are you planning to do to improve in any or all of those areas in 2019?
5. Turn up
Good one JP. Something I should remember more. I do have a habit of deciding not to go racing some days because it’s too far, it’s too windy, it’s not windy enough,. it might rain, it’s too cold, I’ve got a pain in my back, I’ve got a bone in my leg etc. etc. etc.
Invariably if I decide to go anyway I have a good time. I guess I would probably category this as part of mental attitude. Perhaps the most important part.