By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and Grand Prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My trainer just informed me that I’ll be moving up from the 3’3” Amateur-Owner to the 3’6” Amateur-Owner. I’m very excited but I’m nervous because the jumps seem so much larger and more solid. I know there isn’t a big difference in height but I’m getting nervous. Do you have any tips to combat my nerves before I make my debut in the new division?
First, take a second to recognize your accomplishments. You’ve shown competence at the 3’3″ height. You’ve schooled many times over the height of 3’6″ at home, with apparent success. Your trainer wouldn’t push you, or any other student, if they were not ready to move up. A trainer thinks about your safety. Furthermore, it would be a poor reflection of them if they were pushing you to do something that you were not ready to do. Clearly, your trainer feels that you’re ready to move forward and take this step. While it may be a challenge, they have complete confidence in you. It’s time to move on, move up and meet the challenge.
Change is hard for everyone. Any change from what we’re comfortable with causes excitement as well as some degree of doubt. The whole idea of moving up a division can cause one to be distracted by concerns such as making a mistake and being embarrassed. These are a couple of techniques to help diminish concerns and make your transition a smoother one:
- Pick one thing to focus on in your class.
Choose a particular issue that you’ve been working on in your lessons. For example, keeping a consistent pace, keeping your hands even or taking a deep breath in every corner. By choosing something in particular to focus on in a class, the brain remains centered on the task rather than on the self-imposed worries one has created.
Come up with a phrase that captures the issue. For example, you might say, “I ride my course with a consistent and steady pace.” Repeat the chosen phrase to yourself numerous times throughout the day and until you go into the ring to ride your class. By repeating the phrase and allowing it to become the focus of your attention (as opposed thinking about making a mistake and being embarrassed), the mind chatter will be silenced and positively impact your performance. When choosing your “focal” phrase, state it in a positive way. Positive thought leads to a positive outcome.
- Change your perspective.
Another little trick that will help in your moving up a division is looking at the actual change in height a bit differently. We often are scared because the fences appear so big in the new division. Moving up from 3’3″ to 3’6″ is 3 inches.
Take a piece of string or a rubber band. Cut the string or rubber band to measure 3 inches. That’s the difference in height that you’ll be jumping. Carry this string or rubber band with you. Pull it out of your breeches from time to time and reinforce how small the change really is.
Remember, our minds can make a big difference in our success. Don’t allow your anxieties to play havoc with your success. Focus your mind, ride as you’ve been trained to do and remember you’ve proven it’s time to move up.