Wednesday 20 November 2019

Author doesn't get in the zone with his study of the mind

In The Zone
In The Zone

Book review - Dean Goodison

Nowadays, no stone is left unturned when seeking sporting glory. Participants and coaches alike sift through a myriad of information, analyse every movement and attempt to fix every minor weakness to drag out the performance that is as close to perfection as possible.

The mental side of the game has become big business. Sports psychologists are just the tip of the iceberg.

Everyone is looking to find their optimum mental state, everyone wants the Zen feeling. Peaking at the right time is not just physical, it's mental too.

It's a topic athletes are gripped by; how do I really reach my potential? The importance of the mind has seeped into the branches and twigs of the sports industry, and a glance at the sports section in the Book Centre will show you just how integral it has become.

'In The Zone' is just the latest in an ever-growing line of publications that looks directly at the mind and its effect on sport. It's dressed as 'How Champions think and win big' but it falls a little short of that lofty ambition.

There's a problem and the title gives it away - 'In The Zone'. What exactly is the Zone? There are so many examples of differing opinion in this book that it's unclear whether the author really knows where he's going with it.

Some athletes author Clyde Brolin interviews say they have experienced 'The Zone' for just a few seconds of their career. Some describe a trance-like state, some an out-of-body experience, while others say they lived in 'The Zone' for months. There is a disconnect somewhere.

This book was clearly a labour of love for the author, as it took in excess of seven years to complete and get to market. Brolin deserves huge credit for his effort and drive to get this out there but it feels like it's a few years too late, as others have gone deeper in the meantime.

Brolin mentions in the acknowledgements that 'there are some big names who have fallen by the wayside in the interest of flow'. The problem is, if you ignore certain people, flow or not, it only serves to invalidate any conclusion you reach.

It is therefore baffling that a sports journalist can write a book about being 'In The Zone' and make no reference to arguably the greatest exponent of any Zone you might imagine - Tiger Woods.

The American golfer, who many argue is the greatest of all time, was synonymous with being 'in the zone', in fact he was, above all others, the man who made the term a popular phrase in the sporting lingo before people really knew what this zone thing actually was.

Brolin does visit the edges of the reader's sporting interest, gauging the zone from the point of view of freerunner Ryan Doyle, around the world rower Roz Savage, and various motorsport personnel.

Interesting bits? British long jumper Greg Rutherford has some thoughts on the 'everyone's a winner' attitude in under-age sports. The words of Pieter de Preez are also strong and thought-provoking.

Maybe some of the young up-and-coming athletes of the county will pick up bits from here and there that they can apply to their own sporting career. Maybe there's a lightbulb moment in the 300-odd pages for someone? Realistically, for the general sports book reader, this isn't anything groundbreaking. Sometimes it's interesting, often it's fairly mundane.

You won't need rush out to buy it but for around a tenner it's certainly not the most expensive offering on the shelves.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

Wexford People