Flow Interview – Sarah Hendrickson – World Champion Ski Jumper

Flow Interview – Sarah Hendrickson – World Champion Ski Jumper

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Quotes Stories

For those that don’t know Sarah Hendrickson, meet one of the most exciting female athletes around.
Sarah Hendrickson is an American ski jumper who won the first ever women’s World Cup season in 2012. She is a 22-time World Cup medalist and 13-time Continental Cup medalist. It goes without saying, but we were delighted to catch up with here and even more delighted to have her on board The Flow Centre.

Her career highlights include:
• 22-time World Cup Medalist (13 Gold, 6 Silver, 3 Bronze)
• 13-time Continental Cup Medalist (4 Gold, 4 Silver, 5 Bronze)
• 2014, Olympic Winter Games, 21st
• 2013, World Cup, Second Place Overall
• 2013, World Championships Gold Medalist
• 2012, World Cup Overall Champion
• 2011, U.S. Normal Hill Champion
• 2011, World Championships Normal Hill 16th place
• 2009, World Championships Normal Hill 29th place

Anyway, enough intro, let’s get on with what Sarah had to say.

Cameron:
So tell me about your flow experiences.

Sarah:
I think that time at the world championships. I remember being at the top and just so nervous. I was like “I can’t feel my feet right now! I don’t know how I’m going to do this!” and then I got to the bottom after my second jump, and obviously had won, and it was like something else took over my body, because there was so much pressure and everything. I don’t know how I performed to that level with that much pressure, my mind just took over and muscle memory and everything. It was like “Okay, you know what to do subconsciously, and just focus”. It’s kind of hard to explain.

Cameron:
Yeah, especially when you remember it. You get all those feelings and tingly sensations, and then you’re like “But, but… How did it happen?!”

Sarah:
Yeah, exactly!

Cameron:
So, describe some of the characteristics that you might have felt during it? You said everything felt amazing. Can you go into a little bit more about how that felt, or what you feel you experienced?

Sarah:
I guess effortless is almost the right word. Your body is doing all these things, but it’s subconscious, you don’t have to think about it right there. It’s hard to explain, I guess effortless and flawless, almost numb. But that’s the first experience I think of when you describe flow, the world championships in Italy in 2013.

We have two jumps and I was winning after the first jump, then we jump in reverse order, so I was going last on the second jump. The girl before me was within a small margin of me; she jumped and I could hear the crowd cheering. I was just trying to block everything out and focus on myself. I remember thinking “My feet are numb!” I was kind of freaking out, thinking “How am I going to pull this off?” then I was just like “Well, nothing to lose now. Just shake it out.” That’s when the hours of training comes in, the muscle memory, your mind just goes into reserve mode, just don’t focus on the pressure, don’t focus on the small details; everything will run its course.

Sochiskijump

Cameron:
What did you do to help you focus and get into that state?

Sarah:
I blocked out the outside world. When I’m jumping, I’ve been jumping for 13 years now, I just focus on one or two really simple things. It doesn’t mean anything to the outside world because they’re technical terms for ski jumping, but I relax my arms, balance and timing. Timing is so important in ski jumping, timing and rhythm. So, I just pick those two things that I had been focusing on and just zero in on that, everything else will just come. I didn’t need to focus on the other stuff because I was in that mind set, the muscle memory or whatever would just take over.

Cameron:
When you focus on it, do you repeat the words, like relax your arms? Or, do you almost use the words to brainwash yourself? How do you focus on it?

Sarah:
Yeah, exactly! Part of me is hearing the announcers and people calling scores or whatever of the girls in front of me. So, I try to speak to myself as loudly as I can in my head so that I don’t hear the outside. I’ll even try and shake my head so that I don’t hear. I just don’t want to hear that, you can’t think about jumping a certain distance, that’s not how it happens. You have to focus on the miniscule things, that’s going to make you jump further. Repetition and even whispering words out loud sometime, or just yelling in my head.

Cameron:
What else do you think helps you get into that zone? Is there preparation that you might do leading up to it the morning of, the evening of? Or anything else that you do as you’re walking up the steps, preparing, or when you’re sitting down, or just before you take off?

Sarah:
Yeah, repetition actually, and not just in words. I have the same warm-up routine that I do a certain time before a jump. How I put my equipment on and stuff. I’m kind of OCD, so those things are just zeroed in. I know exactly what time I need to put on my stuff, when I’m waiting at the top, 10 jumpers before my tie my boots a little tighter the step out and start putting my skis on. Repetition is really, really important for me, just doing the same thing over and over, and I do it the same for training. You need to compete like you train and train like you compete. Have that same physical repetition and the mental preparation the same every single day.

Cameron:
Do you have any other big flow experiences? Maybe one that tops the world championship?

Sarah:
It’s a bit different, because I didn’t have a good result, but I guess doing the Olympics. I had some serious surgery about five and a half months before Sochi. I managed to get through rehab, but I just wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be, but my coaches felt like I deserved to be there.
The training days leading up, my knee was in so much pain and I knew I wasn’t mentally strong enough and prepared to be there, then on competition day I got unlucky with the wind. But, my practice jump that morning, we always get one practice jump, my coach just looked at me and was like “Oh my God – that was a million times better!” He was like “You showed up for game day! Regardless of the pain you’re in and everything you’ve been through these past six months, you just put it all aside, and your body knew exactly what to do, and you had an awesome jump!”
I was just in that kind of mindset. I just pushed the pain away, pushed every doubt and piece of junk that I’d gone through out of me and just had a normal jump. And my coaches saw it. The coaches from the other nations saw it too, it was kind of crazy. It was like even though it had been a while my body still knew what to do.

Cameron:
What helped you jump that morning?

Sarah:
I don’t know! I just thought “Don’t have any regrets. You’ve Sarah1trained so hard to be here. Maybe you’re not at your strongest but you’ve worked so hard, now let’s prove it”. I had to change my warm-up and everything, my knee was so bad I couldn’t even run. But I figured I’ve got three more jumps today, then I’m done. After today I can just rest and reassess everything. I had another surgery after that, but it didn’t matter at that point, I was just like “Show them what you’ve got!” I’m ultra-competitive obviously, which makes it easier to get into that mindset.
You have to find a balance between focused and almost not too serious, though. If you try to hard when you’re super competitive in ski jumping it just doesn’t work. We all say that technically, it’s a very simple sport, but it’s against everything that your body wants to do, so when you get too focused there’s no flow to it. It’s too choppy; it’s not smooth and out of rhythm. So when you stay relaxed and just focus on a couple of things everything is much smoother, develops the power better and it all just comes together much better than trying to force it.

Cameron:
So what do you do to help yourself stay relaxed?

Sarah:
Well, I’m friends with a lot of the girls from the other nations, so we’ll all be talking at the top of the hill, kind of joking around before getting ready to go. Like if it’s been a bad day and I’m kind of down on myself I think “I’m not going to pull of the best jump right now, but look at the view! Think how hard you worked to get here, you’re so fortunate to be here.” I just kind of step back and make the most of the situation, because competing is really stressful. This is the best job in the world, but it’s stressful.
Sometimes that’s easy to get down on, then I think “why do I put so much pressure on myself?” I try to step away from all that negativity and just appreciate where I am. You can’t have a good day every day and the people that really matter, the ones closest to me, they know that I’ve worked really hard to get here and are just like “Alright, shrug it off, you can’t be on top every single day.”

The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Sarah Hendrickson and the Wasserman Group for their time and energy.

Believe in Yourself – Tips & Training

The next time you have a match or performance and you start to doubt yourself, think of the incredible innate ability that already exists inside.

  1. Replay past successful performances where you played at your best.
  2. Replay only the most powerful of these experiences.
  3. Replay the memory looking through the eyes of the performer (not looking at yourself from a 3rd person’s perspective)
  4. Soak up the emotion of how you felt and replay the movie again and again until the movie seems real
  5. Should the doubt surface again, simply back yourself and replay the movie until it has gone.

Once this vivid movie has helped you dissolve any doubt, create a title and front cover (dvd) to the move. In the future repeating the title to yourself and imagining the front cover may be all you need to ‘back yourself’.

Once the above process has worked on several occasions, find another experience and repeat the above, creating 2 or 3 movies that will may work in different situations. Feel free to change or customise the experience, emotion or detail, to achieve the outcome you need in order to ‘back yourself’.

Note:

  • The above task may take an hour initially. As you become more familiar with replaying the past experience this whole process can carried out in 10 seconds.
  • The brain understand and learns best from images, so the more intense the movie is the greater the effect.
  • The more you can practise this task, the more established the mind body connections will become. This process literally reestablishes old connections and allows you to be at your best.
  • If the one memory is not working or you are finding a block to reaching the associated feelings, change the experience to another past experience where you have surprised yourself or played your best.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.

If you don’t belief in yourself, don’t expect others to

If you don’t belief in yourself, don’t expect others to

Flow Sports

 

Have you ever listened to a passionate speaker or leader, and wondered how they have become so popular?! Maybe the content of their speech is not coherent or you don’t agree with what they are saying, yet they still manage to persuade hundreds or millions of people to believe in themselves. People follow strong believers even to their graves. Many people simply follow the belief that the great leaders of the world possess, and pay little attention to questioning the substance of what they are saying as they are caught up in their belief, confidence and charisma. All great speakers, leaders, artists, athletes and performers have a few things in common, one of which is that they back themselves. Every time they step up to perform they have to believe in themselves as they know they cannot hide. No one will be there to rescue them, so they either back themselves or don’t do it. The bigger the profile, stage and audience the harder it is to hide and perform well without backing yourself.

Do you ever think great performers go into every performance or competition thinking that they will win/nail it every time, off course not. Humans are humans, and the psyche will always allow a string of doubt no matter how small or big, however the great athletes who may not even believe they will win, still go out and back themselves knowing that the possibility is there. If you look closely at a lot of great performers it is not till some way after the start they hit full confidence and start playing at their best. Sometimes the belief comes as a result of backing yourself and you find your true belief and confidence in the performance after your body surprises yourself or your conscious mind.

Backing yourself doesn’t mean that you need to know that you will accomplish the task 100% of the time, without a shadow of doubt. It simply means that you have the courage to trust yourself and that you will find an outcome along the way. Being your best fan does not need to be a statement of arrogance or show of superiority, it is simply accepting the reality that if you don’t believe in yourself then it is unlikely others will. A great example of this is a high school basketball player who trained hard but got dropped form his high school team for not being good enough. Alot of people would have given up or found a distraction, but this basketball player kept backing himself and became the legend we know as Michael Jordon.

“But although I have confidence, sometimes I don’t think the task ahead of me is achievable and I lack that belief”.

If you find yourself doubting yourself, know that you are either facing a life threatening experience and you should probably listen to your instinct, or you are listening to the doubts of your conscious mind which has rooted itself in a pattern of doubt. When this situation occurs, for me, I often laugh at myself, as I know all I need to look at is how incredible my subconscious is. The complexity of the tasks the subconscious performs, minute by minute, is often far more complex than the task ahead. Imagine if you had to take on a fraction of the tasks the subconscious does in a few seconds. Imagine having to control the blood flow of your body, making sure every organ is performing at its best and servicing parts of the body that need more blood than others. Imagine how precisely each of the thousand of muscle strands has to move in order to lift a drink in to your mouth, or walk across the room to turn on a light, let alone return a serve, hit a golf ball or balance on a wave. Imagine the thousands of messages going through your nervous system, stimulating different parts of the body, and the processing of turning oxygen into energy as you effortless breath and maintain the correct levels of gasses in your body. This is a fraction of what is going on inside the body and the subconscious does this without question and can handle a hundred fold more. The brain is far smarter and faster than the most powerful computer known to man. This incredible innate ability opens up a world of possibilities and potential if we allow ourselves to use it. With such an incredible and intelligent brain already activated, the subconscious tends to put the conscious to shame in comparison. When we think of this magic inside us, that is already happening, suddenly the overbearing task ahead seems a lot simpler, ask long as we allow ourselves to trust our subconscious and ‘back ourselves’.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.