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Mental Training: Excellence Defined Mental Training: Excellence Defined
   What is Excellence? Seeking excellence is not the same as seeking perfection, but rather a perfect effort. Get Mental : Erika Westhoff  ... Mental Training: Excellence Defined

   What is Excellence? Seeking excellence is not the same as seeking perfection, but rather a perfect effort.

Get Mental : Erika Westhoff

   The term “excellence” is thrown around a lot in the world of competitive sports. I’m a fan of this word, so much so that I included it in the name of my business, Excellence in Sport Performance. But like so many terms that are often used in the sports world, (i.e. “mental toughness,”  “talent”) what does “excellence” really mean in the sport context?  

   Let’s first talk about what it’s not. Excellence is not being perfect. In fact, it’s the solution to trying to be perfect. The perfectionist believes that anything less than perfect is failure. While the INTENTION is push yourself to perform your best, the reality is you feel a sense of failure MOST of the time, because consistent perfection is unattainable. 

What is Excellence?

   What is excellence? It’s your personal best in a given session. It’s being clear on what you can accomplish and control. Excellence is a result of how you train on the field and in the gym. Also, it’s how you choose to respond to failure. It’s a process. Furthermore, it’s a core value of an athlete. Excellence is something you strive to accomplish everyday. It’s NOT something that just shows up randomly in the heat of the moment. Excellence is truly opportunity meeting preparation.

   My favorite example of excellence in motion is U.S. Women’s Soccer player and newly-crowned national hero, Carli Lloyd. She is truly a product of hard work and learned mental toughness. Carli is known for delivering in big games. I had the pleasure of watching her score the game-winner at Wembley Stadium in the 2012 Olympics. Just a few weeks ago we saw her score a hat trick in World Cup final. 

   Her former coach Tony DiCicco says, “…The bigger the game, the more she wants to perform.”  

   Former teammate and national team teammate Briana Scurry says, “She’s as big a big-game player as I’ve seen. A lot of great players wither on the vine, become wallflowers, when the pressure is the biggest.”  

What’s the Secret?

   What is the secret to Carli’s excellence in big games?

   Physical Excellence — Always finding ways to improve herself, Carli has often sought out extra training that helps her perform at the top end of her ability. Physical strength and conditioning gives her the confidence to “just play” without the worry of running out of gas. She is always a work in progress.

   Mental Excellence — Her mental game has developed most over her 10-year stint with the senior national team. Carli stated in a recent article, “… Over the years, and definitely over the last four years, I’ve taken visualization to another level … I’ve basically visualized so many different things on the field, making these big plays, scoring goals.”

   This a key strategy to maintaining her technical skills as well. Excellent visualization is not just situational, it’s very technically detailed.  

   Are you striving for perfection or excellence? Knowing the difference and training accordingly will set you on a path of accomplishment and, more importantly, enjoyment and fulfillment from your sport experience. 

Erika Westhoff is a certified mental trainer and owner of Mental Training Inc. in Pleasanton. 


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Mental Training, Strategy, Planning With Purpose Produces Positives. Sports Training.

Erika Westhoff

Erika Westhoff is the CEO and certified mental trainer at EW Performance in Pleasanton, CA. She has been a contributing author to SportStars since 2010.

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