In 1985, I attended a seminar, Journey to Center, at which I volunteered to demonstrate an exercise with Aikido master Tom Crum. Tom, who became a mentor, asked me to stand before a large group. Facing me, he gently pushed my shoulders, and as I fell back, I had to catch my balance by moving my feet. After highlighting the Aikido principles of a relaxed body and focused mind, Tom had me focus on my center, located about an inch above the navel. While I was in this focused state, Tom repeated the same shoulder push. I did not budge. This brief exercise enlightened me to the deep connection between our minds and bodies.
Athletes who utilize this connection by focusing their attention and concentration perform at higher levels than those who do not. Our bodies perform at their peak when our minds are free from distraction. Conversely, when our minds wander to the score, the clock, a missed shot, a questionable call, et cetera, our concentration levels fall. Such a result can make the difference between whether an athlete saves a goal or earns a spot on a team or in a league.