A Jockey’s Mind­set

Ladies in Racing - - Contents - Story by Rachel Jones - Men­tal Notes Con­sult­ing • Im­age by Sharon Lee Chapman

Jock­eys have to stay fo­cused, be fit and strong, make weight, see op­por­tu­ni­ties, make de­ci­sions un­der pres­sure and keep train­ers and own­ers happy. This re­quires per­fect phys­i­cal prepa­ra­tion. Men­tal tough­ness is nec­es­sary to main­tain the phys­i­cal prepa­ra­tion re­quired to meet the de­mands of the sport. When de­mands seem to out­weigh re­sources, the brain views the sit­u­a­tion as a threat and goes into stress mode. In stress mode, the brain makes poor de­ci­sions and tries to over­com­pen­sate or play it safe, lead­ing to un­der­per­for­mance. The key is to in­crease re­sources by in­creas­ing men­tal tough­ness. Re­searchers de­scribe men­tal tough­ness as “hav­ing the nat­u­ral or de­vel­oped psy­cho­log­i­cal edge that en­ables you to, gen­er­ally, cope bet­ter than your op­po­nents with the many de­mands that sport places on a per­former and, specif­i­cally, be more con­sis­tent and bet­ter than your op­po­nents in re­main­ing de­ter­mined, fo­cused, con­fi­dent, and in con­trol un­der pres­sure” (Jones, Han­ton, & Con­naughton, 2002). Men­tally tough jock­eys be­lieve in them­selves, are re­silient in the face of what­ever is thrown at them, re­main fo­cused un­der in­tense pres­sure and are able to push them­selves fur­ther than they thought pos­si­ble in or­der to achieve the re­sult they want. Just like phys­i­cal skills, men­tal tough­ness is best de­vel­oped in chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ments that stretch ca­pa­bil­i­ties to de­velop skill, cop­ing, and tough­ness. Men­tal tough­ness is con­nected to phys­i­cal tough­ness and as­sists with the dis­ci­pline needed to train, com­plete track­work and make weight. Men­tally tough jock­eys must main­tain a present mo­ment and process fo­cus in a sport where they are con­tin­u­ally re­minded of the im­por­tance of win­ning. Right be­fore the bar­ri­ers open, jock­eys need to have a sim­ple and clear fo­cus, stay­ing in the mo­ment, not think­ing about the win­ning post be­fore they hit the first turn and lim­it­ing the noise in their minds. Too much in­for­ma­tion, or think­ing about the re­sult be­fore the end of the race can lead to se­cond-guess­ing, hes­i­ta­tion, missed op­por­tu­ni­ties or dan­ger­ous mis­takes. The men­tal de­mands of horse rac­ing ex­tend out­side of the track. Ath­letes are peo­ple too and as such, jock­eys need to make sure they are de­vel­op­ing them­selves off the track as well as on it, by in­vest­ing time in re­la­tion­ships, hob­bies and other ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties. Hav­ing things out­side of rid­ing re­duces the chance of burnout and in­creases fresh­ness and fo­cus when they are on the track. There are many in­gre­di­ents that make up a suc­cess­ful jockey; mind­set and men­tal tough­ness is the key. Horse rac­ing is one of the most men­tally de­mand­ing sports in ex­is­tence and there­fore some­thing spe­cial is re­quired to pull off in­cred­i­ble feats like a Mel­bourne Cup win. The se­cret to suc­cess is to train your brain as well as your body!

ALL SPORT IS A DEL­I­CATE BAL­ANCE OF DE­MANDS THAT RE­QUIRE EF­FORT TO OVER­COME, WITH RE­SOURCES AND TOOLS THAT CAN BE USED TO OVER­COME THE PAR­TIC­U­LAR DE­MANDS.

HORSE RAC­ING IS NO DIF­FER­ENT.

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