Use THIS Olympic champion's mental trick to help young athletes excel
By Greg Bach
Athletes learn to discard disappointing performances in many ways.
And in lots of places.
For Olympic track champion Dr. Rochelle Stevens it’s the shower, which she learned long ago could be a cleanser of both body and mind.
“There are a lot of races that you are not going to win, and your feelings are hurt and you’re disappointed with yourself,” Stevens says.
It’s what every athlete grapples with: shaking off that debris of disappointment and figuring out how to move forward without dragging those negative thoughts along for the journey.
“One of my coaches gave me some really good advice,” says Stevens, who won gold in Atlanta at the 1996 Summer Olympics and silver in Barcelona at the ’92 Summer Games competing on the 4 x 400-meter relay team. “He said, ‘Whenever you take a shower and you turn off the water, at the end of the shower do you ever go back into the drain and try to pull the water out?’ And I looked at him like he was crazy and said, ‘Who would do that?’”
What he told her next has never been forgotten.
“He told me that when I take a shower to imagine that my bad race has fallen off and all of the things that I didn’t like about that day is going down that shower drain,” Stevens said. “So, I have always used that remedy where once I turn the shower water off I never look back and it has always worked for me.”
Her spectacular career is proof of that.
That mindset has carried over into her personal and professional life, too.
“Even to this day I use it in my everyday life,” she says. “If there’s something that hasn’t gone the way I thought it was going to go, after I turn off the shower it’s over and I’m ready to get back up and push even harder to make it better than before.”
As youth coaches, helping young athletes work through tough losses and disappointing performances is a big and oh-so important responsibility. The longer negative thoughts linger in young minds, the more difficult it becomes to get them focused on the present.
So, share Stevens’ approach with players and get them exploring the mental aspects of competing, where the proper mindset is vital for optimal performance.
FOUNDATION OF FAST
Stevens became interested in track as a youngster after watching a show on legendary track star Wilma Rudolph on television. Rudolph’s story was so inspiring that Stevens took up jogging right away and told her mom she wanted to go to the Olympics.
Her mom signed her up at a local track club in Memphis, and thanks to a caring coach her love for the sport was ignited.
And her talent blossomed.
“My age group club coach was so passionate about everyone and he did a lot of team building,” Stevens says. “He was always telling us that we were going to be great and that we were awesome. From his enthusiasm it just made you want to work harder because you didn’t want to let him down. He really believed in all the athletes. He was just so interested in the success of his athletes.”
It was that encouragement and support that helped drive Stevens to greatness, where she was an 11-time All-American, an NCAA 400-meter champion and the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials 400-meter champion, among many other accolades.
“I know for a fact he is the main reason why I stayed out there,” she says. “He wasn’t mean, he wasn’t grumpy, I never heard him complain and he never talked negative to us. He was just very positive and he gave us so much hope for the dreams that we were chasing.”
Stevens knows how valuable those early years were in her development, and she is passionate about giving back to others these days.
For 28 years she has conducted the Rochelle Stevens Invitational Track Meet in Collierville, Tenn. Held every year on Memorial Day weekend, more than 30,000 athletes have competed since its inception.
“It is an honor to be able to help someone else achieve their dreams,” says Stevens, who starred at Morgan State University before competing around the globe. “I give everyone an opportunity to come and compete.”
Stevens is also the author of Travel The World By Foot, which tells her remarkable story and provides insight on overcoming challenges and achieving dreams, as well as her tips on training, eating right, and more. She also is a frequent speaker, sharing inspiring messages to schools, corporations and teams.
For additional information, or to reach out to her, visit http://www.rochellestevens.org.
Former Olympic swimmer Melinda Harrison, author of Personal Next, discusses life transitions, the value in being vulnerable, growing from failure, and more
Actor Brad William Henke, appearing in Stephen King’s THE STAND on CBS, shares his youth sports journey, his love of football, and how his parents and coaches impacted his life
U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team forward Jessica McDonald is a strong advocate of kids playing multiple sports growing up. Learn how it helped her – and how it can benefit your young athlete, too
Valerie Arioto, former Pac-12 Player of the Year and Team USA Softball standout, on being a team player, performing at your best, the importance of playing a variety of sports during childhood, and more