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Compete in the Zone:
How to reach your full athletic potential

  by Roger Haeske

Did you ever have an experience while playing sports in which you played way beyond your normal capabilities? Did you do things automatically almost on a subconscious level? You may have felt like you were playing "Out of your head." It may also have felt like a higher power was guiding you. This is the Zone or the Flow State.

One of my most dramatic experiences in the Zone was at a high school tennis match when I was playing 3rd singles. My opponent was from Bridgewater West. The last time I played him he beat me fairly easily. He was clearly a better player than I was.

Earlier that week I had purchased my first stringing machine and I was having a hard time learning how to string racquets. The night before my match I was stringing my tennis racquet. Stringing was really quite frustrating at first. But after I strung my racquet that night, I felt a certain sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment and mental relaxation that I had because of it, was a critical factor to help me get into the Zone.

I started my match feeling quite good and relaxed. I really liked my new strings. As we started playing I noticed that I was hitting great return of serves. The funny thing was that I felt like I had a higher power directing my movements. My conscious mind seemed like it was in the background. Everything just seemed to flow and be really natural. I was very aggressive, going to the net and putting shots away. I ended up blowing my opponent away in the first set. . That day I was playing as well as our first singles player.

The second set I didnít fair so well. I must have been thinking too much. It was a close set. I still felt I had this magical ability but I wasnít using it as well as I could. He ended up taking a close set.

When the 3rd set began I felt fairly confident that I could still beat this guy. I went right back to what I did in the first set and handled him easily. My coach, teammates and especially the coach from the other team couldnít believe how I was playing. My game literally took a massive jump forward overnight. It turned out that I never played that well again during my high school career, even during my senior year (after a year of intense practice) when I was actually the first singles player on our team. This was a purely accidental experience. The goal of this program is to enter the Zone on purpose.

This program is the result my asking the question; how can one get in the Zone at will? Iíve been reading books about this particular topic since I was 13. The first one I read was the classic "The Inner Game of Tennis," by Timothy Gallwey. It was really very good, but I needed more information and techniques.

The techniques in this report are a synthesis of all the best material in the world on personal development. Iíve read hundreds of books in related fields. Iíve also added my own techniques and insights that Iíve developed by using these ideas and teaching them to others. I attended at least 25 seminars, started teaching classes and running seminars about the Infinite Intelligence. I listened to many audiocassette programs that dealt with peak performance. Iíve had a number of tennis students who were losing matches and made dramatic comebacks by me showing them how to change their mental focus. All of these experiences and insights make this a powerful program for accessing the Zone.

In my experiences in the Zone I believe what is happening is the person has actually expanded their awareness to a higher plane of life. They have expanded beyond the ordinary realm of time and space. It is in a sense a very spiritual and uplifting experience. They have tuned into that Infinite Intelligence which goes by many names including the Force, Spirit, the Zone, and the Creative Imagination. I have gotten into the Zone on a much more regular basis since I started using these techniques. You will be able to do this as well and itís easier than you think.

Looking back on my experience in the Zone at the high school tennis match of 15 years ago, Iíve learned much as to why I experienced what I did. First of all, I was actually only playing at the level that I should have been playing at. The reason I didnít do so normally was that I had too many fears and mental blocks keeping me away from my full potential. Over the years through diligent effort and research Iíve removed those blocks and have been able to access the Zone on a much more regular basis.

Another factor was that I was extremely relaxed and happy with myself. This was due to the strong efforts and struggle I was making at stinging racquets. Iíve noticed that anytime I had a cold for instance, I became mentally relaxed. Somehow my conscious mind becomes less active and Iím much more relaxed and even funny around people. I even have less fear. Itís a little like being drunk. (Nowadays I donít get sick with my raw-food diet.)

Later on Iíll give you a technique to analyze your experiences in the Zone, so that you can reproduce that experience almost at will. (Note: being in the Zone does not guarantee you will win. Iíve played in the Zone only to face someone else with even greater skill that was also playing in the Zone. The Zone is only to help you reach your current potential best effort. If youíre a beginner and youíre playing Pete Sampras you are not going to beat him no matter how deep you're in the Zone. )


4 Skill Areas to help you Experience the Zone:

Relaxation and Fun



Deep Concentration


1.Relaxation and Fun

Iíve already discussed this quite a bit above. The key is you have to compete without any fears or inhibitions. Only then can you release your natural abilities and play in the Zone. There are many techniques to help you overcome fear. Sometimes you can naturally produce this state without trying. (IE having a cold or working so hard at something that your mentally exhausted and your higher self just comes out.)


What you focus upon becomes magnified:

Another way to develop this state of relaxation is the universal mental law "What you focus upon becomes magnified." So if you focus on your fears or past negative experiences they become magnified all out of proportion to reality. If you focus on success and expect great results you will experience that. Your conscious awareness can only focus on so much at a time. It tends to zero in on one thing and magnify that in your awareness.

Try this experiment: Squeeze your thumbnail hard on one of your fingers so that it hurts a little. Now keep on doing this but shift your attention to your big toe on your right foot. Try to mentally feel your toe and notice if you can feel your heartbeat in the toe and do this for 5 seconds. Youíll notice if you pay attention, that the pain in your finger lessened as soon as you switched your attention to your big toe. The more the attention shifted to the toe the less you probably thought about the pain in your finger.

So remember this, always focus on the positive and on your good experiences. You can evaluate and use negative experiences to your advantage but never associate your self-image to past negative experiences. This technique, practiced continuously while your playing, will eventually reprogram your subconscious thoughts to focus on the positive. All actions start in your thoughts first. When you expect success you naturally become more relaxed.

Attitude of Fun:

Develop an attitude of having fun instead of trying to win. How can you have any fear if youíre having fun? Fear and fun donít coexist. Fear takes you immediately out of the Zone. So you must develop the relaxed attitude of fun. Any time Iím competing and itís fun to me, Iím automatically in the Zone. I just perform better when Iím happy. Iíve even noticed this while playing pinball. In fact the happier you are the deeper youíll be able to get into the Zone. One cannot grasp or hold onto the Zone. Once you start grasping for it your working with an attitude of fear. The Zone is automatically there for people who just let it flow with a relaxed attitude. Itís a paradox that in the struggle to win we try so hard that we limit our potential to succeed.



Another technique to gain relaxation is called centering. The idea is to slow down your brain waves to an alpha state and to compete from that relaxed state. There are many ways to this relaxed state. All people get into this state every day. It naturally happens as you arise in the morning and when youíre going to sleep. During meditation people produce alpha brain waves and even slower trance like brain waves.

This technique will use the magical power of breath to get you into a deep relaxed state. Do this before your competition. Sit down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and relax. Then youíll breath in deeply through your nose. Use breathright strips if you have trouble breathing through your nose. Put your hand on your abdomen. You should feel it rise up. If not, you are doing chest breathing and not getting the full benefit of properly oxygenating your blood. Then hold your breath at least 10 seconds. If you can comfortably hold it longer that is better. Then slowly breath out through your nose and keep on doing it until you force out almost all the air remaining in your lungs. Do this process over again at least 10 times. When you pass 10 breaths you donít have to breathe in and out as deeply. Now youíre getting into relaxation mode. For the next 5 to 10 minutes visualize playing in the Zone. Picture and feel yourself making difficult shots easily. See yourself playing great and having fun at the same time. Once youíre relaxed, these images of success will be more easily accepted by the subconscious mind. What you believe and then take action upon becomes your reality. You become what you think about. If you believe you can access the Zone, you will. The whole exercise should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes. But it will relax you and give you confidence and help you perform at peak levels.


2. Outflow:

Entering the Zone is actually an experience with the higher power. It is an altered state of mind. It is a state without the conscious mind interfering. It is soul experiencing itís true home in the higher planes. Time and space seem to literally change. This happens because youíre viewing the situation from a higher plane where time and space are interpreted differently.

One time when I was trying to make as many foul shots as possible in a row I entered into the Zone. I had been practicing for a few days. I was maybe12 years old. For a long time I wasnít even making 10 foul shots in a row. My best was around 6 shots. Then one day I played basketball with some kids and after playing I started practicing the foul shots again. I started shooting and everything seemed normal. I started having a really good run at them. I finally got over 10 shots. At around 12 shots I started noticing how easy it was to make these shots. The basketball rim looked twice as wide as normal. I was definitely in an altered state of consciousness. I felt like it was almost impossible to miss. Again I felt like a higher power was guiding my actions. I was in tune with "The Force." It even started raining around the 14th shot. I just kept on going. My awareness seemed expanded. It was like being right next to the rim and dropping the shots in. I made it all the way to 20 in a row then I missed. Maybe the rain became too much of a distraction. Even while in the Zone you can do stuff to take you right out of it.


How to Outflow:

What do the wind and water have in common? They both flow. They move and are in a constant state of change. That is the nature of the Zone or Flow State. The Zone is actually an energy that exists everywhere that permeates all life. It is the spiritual substance of the universe. When youíre in the Zone you are outflowing whether youíre aware of it or not.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience. An understanding of certain universal spiritual laws will greatly enhance your athletic performance as well as the happiness you enjoy in life. Let me repeat we are spiritual beings. We donít have a soul, we are soul and we have a mind, emotions and a body. Soul is our eternal nature and if we understand what we are spiritually we can tune into the highest levels of creativity and freedom. Many people do this naturally and others are consciously aware of these spiritual laws.

The law weíre discussing here is outflowing, or the more you give, the more you get. You actually access the Zone by giving, and by letting the spiritual energy flow, like water in a river. The more you let your energy flow in everyday life the more youíll be able to do so while competing in your particular sport. The greatest happiness in the world comes from giving and sharing of your talents. Also by becoming the best you can be. By having goals and structure in your daily life. These are all ways of outflowing. Something that will really help you to outflow is to simply live an organized life. The more you schedule your time, the neater your living and work space, the less junk youíve accumulated, the more you can flow.

One way to expand your flow is to go into your closets and basement and throw out and give away or sell anything that you no longer use. This may sound like a strange suggestion to improve your athletic performance but it is extremely relevant. Everything in your physical house takes up mental space in your brain. By freeing up this mental space more of your energy will flow. You will be able to enter the Zone much easier. If youíre organized and goal oriented youíll experience the highs of the Zone on a daily basis. It is absolutely worth the self-discipline to become organized. As Iím writing this now I feel the awesome power of the Zone because I have set goals and am systematically working towards them. It is the best feeling in the world and develops tremendous self-confidence.

Another way to increase the flow is to have a giving attitude. Try to make nice and uplifting comments to the people around you. Youíll feel great and so will they. This will allow the Force to flow. Giving is a reward in and of itself.

You have to start becoming aware of this flow. Pay attention to how you feel when you are fearful. Are you tight or afraid to miss the shot? Now compare this feeling to when youíre relaxed and happy. If you do this you may actually start to notice the flow or lack of flow through your awareness. This is something you can be very aware of while you are competing. If you experience fear of even the slightest amount during competition your blocking your inner power. The bigger the fear the less flow there will be.

Overcoming fear during competition is a constant process. I know because I have to battle it often myself. Now what do I mean by fear? Did you ever worry about making a shot go in? Youíre at the foul line in a crucial situation in a basketball game and you start thinking about what happens if you miss. That is fear. Youíre down love-40 in a tennis match and your serving and you start worrying about what happens if you double fault. That is also fear. In that situation Iíve found that I use visualization to help me out. I just visualize myself as if I was in practice taking the second serve. In practice I wouldnít be worrying about whether the serve goes in. We have to realize that at times weíre simply going to miss or make a mistake. The key is to not be afraid of that happening because then youíll end up constantly attracting what you fear. Before the serve or your foul shot simply picture and feel it going in. If you start worrying you are subconsciously visualizing failure. Visualize success and youíll get it most of the time.

Something else that blocks the flow is anger. If you get extremely angry your emotions are in control of you and you canít compete up to your potential. Use visualization during competition to focus on happiness and seeing yourself successful. Donít hold onto anger too long. Use it to drive you and redouble your efforts toward your goal.

Remember what Obi Won Kenobe told Luke Skywalker while he was trying to destroy the Deathstar, "Trust your feelings Luke, the Force is with you." The force is with all of us but you canít hang on to it. Itís like the wind it can't be grasped. Instead you must flow with it and give in attitude and heart. Your skills will come to you but if you try to mentally grasp and hold on to them they will fade and diminish.

Another point is that the more you give the more you get. The more you outflow, the happier you are, and the deeper you can get into the Zone. There is an old saying, "Soul exists forever by giving." It doesnít matter what religion you follow, these ideas work. I only write about spiritual terms because I feel they best describe what happens when we experience the Zone.

© 1999 Roger Haeske


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Roger Haeske is the author of the revolutionary book Infinite Tennis: 

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02/22/2005 Date this website was last updated. 
© 1999 - 2005, Roger Haeske  

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