The Mental Zone of Success
The mental zone of success enables us to live in the present moment, work stress free, and perform from a higher mental level.
From 1998-2001, Jason Williams was the starting point guard for the Sacramento Kings. The February 15, 2001 Sports Illustrated cover featured Williams along with teammates Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Doug Christie, and Peja Stojakovic. The caption read, “The Greatest Show on Court.”
As the point guard, Williams was the axle of the wheel. He brought the ball down the court and initiated the plays.
Williams did things so quickly and that were so unorthodox that he dazzled the fans and confused opponents.
In one instance, he hopped three feet off the floor while dribbling down the court at full speed.
The referee called “traveling.”
The hop happened quickly. It was confusing. I am not sure what the referee thought he saw, but it wasn’t traveling. Traveling would mean that Williams had held the ball for two or more steps. Williams had simply hopped while dribbling down the court.
This play, dubbed “the dribble hop,” became part of Williams’s unconscious arsenal, which also included the elbow bump pass, the behind the back pass to himself, and countless variations of the no-look pass.
Is Jason Williams intelligent?
I remember sitting next to a Sacramento Kings fan watching a game during Williams’s second year on the team. The fan commented, “Jason Williams won’t last long in the NBA. He isn’t smart enough.”
I didn’t know what to make of his reference to a player’s intelligence when that player’s performance was raising the performance level of his entire team.
But is he intelligent? To me, the question is irrelevant, because of the level of Williams’s play.
From what I have read of him, I doubt that he really cares about what people think of his intelligence. He is intelligent enough to learn the schemes, formations, and plays of NBA teams, and to play in the NBA from the 1998-1999 season through the 2010-2011 season. In 2006, he was a member of the Miami Heat team that won the NBA championship.
He played ten more years after the person sitting next to me made that comment that Williams was not intelligent.
What Jason Williams did was more of a mental flow than conscious decision-making. Chris Weber once referred to Williams as a real “gym rat” who took a basketball with him wherever he went. The things that Williams did came from an enormous natural ability refined through thousands of hours of playing basketball. In practice, Williams and his teammates worked hours to come together as a team. On the court, they weren’t thinking. They had done all their thinking in practice. The team may not have even been aware of their surroundings. There was no crowd, no coach, nor clock.
They were playing in the zone.
What happens when we leave that zone and start analyzing what we are doing?
For me, the results have not been good.
I played high school football. I remember a flair pass play that my team ran. The play was very simple. One of the running backs would slide out of backfield for a short pass beyond the line of scrimmage. I would throw a short pass to that running back.
As a quarterback, I had thrown flair passes hundreds of times. Quarterbacks often throw flair passes when the team is warming up. If the receiver is open, the completion is nearly a given.
I say “nearly a given.” In one game, my coach called a timeout and had me come over to the sideline. He told me to throw a flair pass to the right halfback. After telling me what play to run, he looked me in the eye and said, “Thread the needle.”
I asked, “Thread the needle?”
The next thing that happened was the coach was explaining the metaphor. “Yeah, you know. Throw the ball precisely to the receiver. Put it right in his arms.”
I started thinking about how to throw a pass that I had thrown hundreds of time.
When I dropped back to throw this flair pass, I failed to lead the receiver. He had to reach back for the ball. He dropped it.
Some people spend their lives in the mental zone of success.
Everyone has the ability to play in the zone. From chess players to typist, high performance people find themselves working intuitively. They are not analyzing their actions. They are above alert. They are working in the present moment.