THE MENTAL GAME: FEAR NOT! UNLOCK YOUR ANXIETIES – Part 1

By John Haime

In the first in our three-part series on dealing with fear on the field, top international mental game coach John Haime explores the types of fears that can plague polo players and explains why the first step to overcoming fear is identifying it.

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”

That wisdom from Yoda, the Jedi Master of “Star Wars,” applies to you in your polo life- identifying your fears is the first step toward conquering them.

I think we can agree that fear isn’t fun. It makes you feel anxious, unsure of yourself and can have a significant impact on how much you enjoy the game. It also shrinks confidence – a secret weapon you need to play your best. And don’t forget, your fears can quickly become a part of your pony’s performance, too – so addressing your fears is important in the big picture.

What is it you’re afraid of in the sport of polo?

Well… it could be many things, from the real, tangible fear of falling or getting hurt, to less tangible fears of failure, not reaching expectations set for you, or a rather lengthy list of reasons that can cause those uncomfortable feelings and take the enjoyment out of the game.

But fear not! There’s help on the way for you to address any fear you have and bring a relaxed, carefree mindset to tour passion.

BIOLOGY DOESN’T HELP

FIrst, if you don’t feel fear, you simply aren’t a human being. We all feel fear, to different degrees – it’s what makes us human. I have the privilege to work with some of the world’s leading athletes – and they feel fear – so it’s not surprising that you might feel fear when you play, too.

To a degree, we are all prisoners to our biology. As human beings, we are built to survive and protect ourselves. The amygdala, or control center of the emotional brain, makes sure of that. This little alarm mechanism has ensured the survival of the human race for centuries. You know how it works – you perceive a threat, the alarm goes off and that uncomfortable feeling begins. We’ve all felt it.

When human life was about “eat or be eaten,” and our ancestors were dealing with real, life-threatening challenges every day, the alarm was a must-have. But for you as a polo player, the emotional brain doesn’t really know the difference between a life and death situation of your ancestor and your perceived threat of embarrassing yourself on the polo field. And, as you can imagine, that might be a problem!

NEXT: In Part 2 of our series on conquering the fear factor, John helps you deal with the “what if’s” that can cause anxiety before and during a game

Photography by Jaime Cabrera

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