Yep, I did.
It was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Confusing right? Stay with me.
Everybody is going to face this moment. We are all human and we are all going to lose when we least expect it. I guarantee you have experienced something just like I am about to tell you. Some of you still probably get chills when you think about your “moment.” Here is mine…….
Rewind with me to March 5h 2006 (My 18th birthday). I’m a senior in high school at Anchor Bay High.
I was ranked # 1 in the state at 140 lbs, carrying a record of 48-3 and I’m in the semi finals of the state championships. A place I had been before. One more win and I am in the state finals!
At this time in my life my oldest brother was the captain of the wrestling team at Michigan State. I was a verbal commit and ready to go to East Lansing next fall. No scholarship was given yet, but a state title would have probably secured something up.
Inside my suite was my parents, brothers, and their friends and the assistant coach from Michigan State University. Right before I left the suite my brothers came up to me and just said “have fun man!…” Not the pep talk I was expecting. They were too calm for me, I wanted them to be more amped up like I was.
I said “thanks” as fast as I could and left. I didn’t even want to look at the assistant coach from MSU. I was way to fricken nervous.
4 laps. I made sure before every match that I ran 4 laps and then I would head down to the main floor to get warmed up. I crushed my first 2 opponents easily so I was strictly sticking to that. If you don’t know me I am superstitious as hell.
For some stupid reason, this time when I went for my 4 lap run they had the hallway blocked off at one section. 4 laps was not happening. Damnit! Not a good start….
I head down to the tunnel and I’m so agitated, so amped up, so not in the mood to talk to anybody.
I’m in the tunnel waiting for my name to be called on the loud speaker barely saying a word to my coaches. I was frantically pacing back and forth… am I warmed up enough? What time is it? Did my teammates win or lose?
“And now wrestling on Mat 1 at 140lbs from New Baltimore Anchor Bay Ben Boudro”
There it is. Let’s go! I sprint to my mat.
Damnit again! I got put on the only white mat in the building. I lost last year on a white mat…I hate white mats!!!
I got to my mat way early. It was literally 4 minutes before my opponent even showed up. I’m in the center of the mat in my stance ready to go. I try not to look up as the palace is packed, but I caved in and looked up. I saw so many people I knew so many people who probably expected me to win.
In those 4 minutes I had nothing to do but battle my thoughts. These are the exact thoughts that went through my head:
“Why is he not here?, am I ready for this?, what will my friends think if I lose?, Will the MSU coaches still want me?, I hate this fricken white mat. This is my last chance for a state title ever!, My brothers will be so pissed if I lose. Why am I so fricken nervous!!!
Not one of those thoughts had anything to do with how great of a wrestler I was and how I could win the match.
He’s here, we shake hands, whistle blows.. Tweet!
I freeze. Everything I had planned to do did not happen. I did nothing but watch my opponent shoot on me, score and win the match. He was doing everything I wanted to do. My legs felt like they were cemented to the ground. It was an out of body experience. Within seconds I am dead tired. I felt helpless.
Just like that, it’s over. I got my ass kicked. My dreams of being state champ are gone. I felt like I just got shot right in the heart and the world was ending.
I walked back to my suite not even crying, just in shock of what happened. I had no idea what to think, I wasn’t prepared for it.
My brothers were pretty bummed, but it was like nothing had happened. They patted me on the back and just said “your good Ben, come back and take third.” My brother Paul knew I needed more that that. He whispered in my ear: “I’m proud of you. You never ever gave up and that’s all that matters. Now come back and take third”
That’s exactly what I did.
I came back on a fricken terror. I had nothing to lose now. I outscored my opponents 25-0 and came back and took third.
Why am I telling you this story?
I want to break down to you exactly what I did wrong so you can never have a moment like mine.
Here is what went wrong and how I fixed it later in my career.
There is a fine line you have to play of being too amped up or not amped up enough. I was way too amped up, adrenaline took over and I was dead tired before the match even started. It’s called overstimulation.
My nerves just sucked the energy right from me and left me with nothing but fatigue.
“Try Easier…The less tension and effort, the faster and more powerful you will be” – Bruce Lee-
Bruce Lee was right man. When you are so tense and nervous you don’t really allow oxygen to flow through your body. Without oxygen there is no rhythm, no fluidity, you are not “you.”
Slow it down by controlling your breathing in the nose and out the mouth slowly. If your heart rate is too high try to listen to softer music or create a conversation that will distract you from reality.
Find your zone and stay there. You know you have talent so just be loose, be cool and be you.
2) Don’t Make It Bigger Than It Is
If you really think about it: win or lose, there is not much that is going to change. One match or one game is not going to decide the rest of your future. At the end of the day it’s only a game so have fun!
How did I master this?
Before a big match in college I would picture a time where I was just relaxing at home with my family. Maybe just playing catch outside or chilling in our back yard. It completely calmed me down. Win or lose I could still go home and play catch or just chill in the back yard. This put life into perspective and put me at ease.
Treat every competition the same. I don’t care if its against a rookie or a national champ go out and do what you practiced to do.
3) Chase the Positives!
“Just as you learn no to swing at bad pitches you must learn not to chase bad thoughts. Learn to turn your negative critic into a positive coach”
Remember my thoughts I told you about before the disaster?
“Why is he not here?, am I ready for this?, what will my friends think if I lose?, Will the MSU coaches still want me?, I hate this fricken white mat! This is my last chance for a state title ever!, My brothers will be so pissed if I lose, why am I so fricken nervous!!!
Not one of these thoughts was positive. All they did was drain my energy and put me in a bad spot.
Train your mind to chase positive thoughts moments before any competition. Want an awesome trick?
Ok work with me here: Think about your best sports moment ever. Was it you hitting the game winning shot? Maybe you beat upset the state champion…whatever it is just play that moment over and over in your head just before you go out to your competition.
By going into that frame of mind you will remind yourself of how talented you are, you’ll gain confidence, you’ll feel good. Live there.
4) Have Fun
Did it sound like I was having much fun before the match I lost? Hell no. I wish I could go back in time and smack myself.
I was so agitated, so tense, so irritable I shut everybody out and probably came off as a jerk. So stupid.
After that loss I said to myself life is way too short to be a jerk over some sport. I said screw it, I’m going to enjoy every moment win or loss and live my life.
You know those moments when your stomach is turning, your heart is beating out of your chest and you are so fricken nervous? Embrace those moments. Don’t look at it as “man I’m way to nervous” Instead look at like this: “Hell ya I’m nervous, I love it, I’m alive!”
If you have a tough game against a tougher opponent don’t look at like : “oh crap this guy is way stronger than me” Instead look at it like: “Wow I have a chance to really see how good I am today”
You can’t take sports or life too seriously. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
5) Live in the moment not ahead of it
Again, think back to my thoughts right before the match.
“What if I lose? What will my friends think? What will my Dad think?
All of those thoughts had to do with what could happen AFTER the match, not what could happen DURING the match. I was living ahead of the moment and it cost me that match.
Live inside the big games. It’s a privilege to be where your at so enjoy it. Have a tunnel vision that doesn’t allow you to think about anything besides the game or match you are in. Nothing else matters besides for what you practiced over and over.
Life is way too short so live in the moment. Enjoy the crowd, the noise, the lights. Before you know it, it will be gone.
So now you know why I told you that horrible story of me losing. I hate that story, but it was a very important time in my life. I’m happy it happened.
If you cannot tell by now, I love mental toughness just as much as I love physical toughness. Your mind is a muscle that needs just as much work as your body does.
My wife is the best. My junior year in college she bought me this book:
I read that book 6 times and still read it today. Great book that I highly suggest for any athlete.