Surfing upset no different than other sports upsets

With the largest prize money ever in a surf competition ($100,000) on the line no one expected an upset at the U.S. Open of surfing in Huntington Beach yesterday. Most assumed one of the big names in surfing like nine-time world champ Kelly Slater, 2007 world champion Mick Fanning from Australia or possibly the events defending champion Nathaniel Curran would walk away with the money. But an upset occurred when 24-year old hometown boy Brett Simpson beat Mick Fanning in the finals.

Simpson came into the event ranked ninth and even on his home turf was considered a long shot to make the finals. Certainly being at home and having the crowd behind him did not hurt, but what ultimately propelled him to victory were the same things that are present in most sporting upsets. Simpson entered the competition with the proper mental focus necessary to perform at his peak. First he believed in himself, second he had a plan based on controlling what he could control and finally he ignored everything else.

Far too many athletes and teams focus on the other competitors (of which they have no control over) to their detriment. I loved Simpson’s quote in the paper this morning: “For me, I just wanted to stick to my strategy and do what I do best out there.” By focusing in this way Simpson took all of the pressure off of himself and allowed his body to do what it was trained to do and the results speak for themselves. The truth is many competitors have lost before the competition begins because of the way they process the event in their mind ahead of time. That’s why mental training is more important than physical training to win at the highest level of sports.

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