Emlor vs Park Place
Emlor vs Park Place



In the second of our three-part series, world-renowned mental performance coach John Haime explains why players get stuck in the “comfort zone” and helps you identify your road blocks to growth as a player.

You’ve probably seen or experienced this many times. You’re having a great match, an absolutely “out of your mind” game, and then WHAMMO! A little bit of poor play brings you back to reality. This often happens when a player has some good play early in the match and then subconsciously slips back to where your mind thinks you should be”—the comfort zone.

In your game, your comfort zone is determined by how you think you typically play. Whenever you play, you’d like to play a little better, take a little more risk, but you are expecting a result in your “usual” range. Inevitably, you’ll have matches where you flirt with play outside your zone; maybe you play the first three chukkers really well, recognizing that great performance in the final three chukkers will give you a result well above your normal zone.

Then what happens? 

You start thinking about what could be. You start playing conservatively, trying to “protect” your great play from the first few chukkers. Next thing you know, you’ve adjusted everything back to the comfy zone and the great match fades away. 

I’m sure you’ve also seen the reverse happen. You have a couple of poor chukkers and then a sudden surge of good play at the end of a match mysteriously puts you back in that comfortable performance place.


We all have roadblocks to growth. Despite your efforts to improve in the sport, invisible walls in your mind can interfere with your progress as a player. Before you can break them down, though, you have to identify them. Here are a few that may be familiar to you . . . 

  • Fear of growth (not feeling safe to grow) — A major barrier is called the “I’m stuck” syndrome. “I’ve always been that way, so how could I possibly change?” You feel stuck at times, and when you do, you don’t feel great about yourself . . . or your game. 
  • A negative view of yourself as a polo player – You see and know yourself as an average player or someone who struggles to excel in matches, so that’s where you stay as a player.
  • Skepticism – You believe any steps you take to improve won’t work or will be a waste of time. “I tried that and it didn’t work.”
  • Uncertainty regarding how to begin or what direction to take – You don’t know how to get better, how to evaluate your game or what steps to take to do it.
  • Challenging yourself emotionally—Forcing yourself to work on your limitations. Not an easy thing to do and not as fun as the feeling of working on your strengths and seeing a good result.
  • “It’s too late for me to change.” – I’m too old or I don’t have enough time. You use excuses that it’s not the right time to improve, and put off doing it. 

NEXT: In the final installment of our series, John gives tips on how to get out of the comfort zone and stretch your performance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach for athletes, executives and artists, former professional athlete and current bestselling Author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. He is trusted by a wide range of clients including some of world’s leading professional and amateur athletes. John coaches professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system generating measurable results for clients. He has certifications in psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and coaching. www.johnhaime.com 

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