How intuition helps athletes win

Intuition in Athletics

by Giuseppina "Vidheya" Del Vicario

3-time Italian Martial Arts Champion tells how to play the game to win

Sporting activities are very valuable to society:

  • Young people benefit from participating in sporting activities because this helps their bodies to grow stronger, so they will be strong and healthy adults.
  • Sports teaches the value and benefits of teamwork, of doing your job, of practice and persistence and concentration. It demonstrates how hard work pays off.
  • Athletes are role models, at every level from childhood to pros.
  • An army instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point put it this way when he spoke of mental training for their athletes: "It's a part of their leadership development, because this is no different really than the ability of a leader to think, problem-solve, react, eliminate distractions in combat." He added, "The ability to maintain focus, to maintain a calm state, and to make critical decisions is paramount to our profession.

Anticipation gives you a winning edge

Top athletes throughout the world report that intuition and mental projection helps them in many ways.

The ability to correctly anticipate what your opponent is going to do gives you a definite edge in competition. In fact, the ability to use your intuition to get information and to anticipate future events is the real secret to outstanding success in every area of life.

If you can use your intuition to sense the best training routine, you will get into better shape more quickly and easily than if you are limited only to random guessing.

Any time you can sense what other people are thinking or what they are likely to do, you know exactly how to prepare so that you will be ready for them.

  • Imagine sensing what someone is willing to pay for your services. You'd know exactly what price you can negotiate.
  • Imagine sensing what opposing players’ game plans are.
  • And imagine being able to send a message to your teammates: To let them know mentally what you are going to do next.

Basketball player Walt Frazier said that he and teammate Bill Bradley could do this. “Sometimes he has passed the ball before I've taken the first step. It's like telepathy,” Frazier said in the book Clyde, which he wrote with Joe Jares.

Many athletes use intuition

There are many real-life examples of athletes who use intuition:

*Hall of fame athlete and broadcaster Frank Gifford often speaks of the great quarterbacks in the National Football League having the ability to “sense” when a tackler is rushing up behind them and moving out of harm's way at the final moment. Gifford's broadcast partner Dan Dierdorf agreed during a broadcast on December 31, 1994, noting that when he asked the great ones how they knew to move, they said they didn't know, it was just instinct.

*Race driver Emerson Fittipaldi has talked about how premonition works for him. When asked how he knew how fast to go into a corner during the Indianapolis 500, Fittipaldi told interviewer Charlie Rose on the Public Broadcasting System, June 3, 1993, “You must know what the car will do before it does it.”

*Muhammad Ali made many accurate predictions about his fights. He often ignored the advice of his trainers and fought the way he felt he should.

*Soccer great Pele said he played his first World Cup game in 1958 entirely in a trance, as if the future were unfolding before his eyes. Pele's team won, largely due to his efforts, according to Peter Bodo and David Hirshey, authors of Pele's New World.

*Middle linebacker Ray Nitschke said in his book, Mean on Sunday, that Cleveland Brown fullback Jim Brown “had a sixth sense that told him how the defense would react.”

*Pitcher Sandy Koufax wrote about the extraordinary rapport he had with catcher John Roseboro in his autobiography, Koufax. “Not only did we have the same idea at the same moment,” he said about one risky decision about what pitch to throw, “we even had the same thoughts about what could happen back in the clubhouse” if it turned out to be the wrong decision.

Olympic fencers sense opponents’ strategies

To help his fencers develop a strategy, Andrzej Wojcikiewicz, a sports psychologist and former coach of the Canadian National Fencing Team, used a special technique taught in the Silva courses. This technique allows you to experience what another person is experiencing by imagining that you are putting his or her head over your own, as though you were putting on a helmet.

“This was used by some fencers before unusually difficult bouts in order to instinctively plan the correct strategy for the fencing match,” Wojcikiewicz explained. “One fencer imagined putting on the head of a world champion before a match, got the feeling, took off the ‘helmet’ and then fenced the match with a great success.”

Know when to shoot

Lance Miller, an international shooting coach trained at the United States Olympic Training Center, said that the most important things in the Silva training to help his athletes are visualization, mental rehearsal, stress management and intuition.

“Why intuition?” Ed Bernd Jr. asked him. “There's no need to figure out your opponent's strategy or anything like that.”

“Are you kidding?” he answered. “There are things beyond a shooter's control that can affect his or her accuracy.”

“Like what?” Ed asked.

“Like the wind,” he answered. “The wind at the target may be different than the wind at the muzzle of the gun. And the wind can change suddenly. If you can somehow use your intuition to help you determine the exact instant to squeeze the shot off, you can improve your score.”

The athlete cannot detect other factors objectively, Miller said. “Despite the excellent quality control in the manufacture of ammunition,” he said, “you could have a nick in a bullet that you can't see with the naked eye, or a smaller powder charge. The athletes need to be able to sense this. I tell my guys and girls that if everything doesn't feel right, don't shoot. When they learn to project their minds to detect problems, this will help them tremendously.”

Miller is teaching his athletes how to use some of the Silva techniques to help them in their quest for world and Olympic championships. The same idea applies to other sports as well, where variables such as wind or precision manufacture of equipment could be factors that influence the success of the athlete's effort.

Words of wisdom from an intuitive thinker

Jose Luis “Pepe” Romero has played competitive sports all his life and worked for Jose Silva for 25 years.

Pepe says intuition helps him remain competitive against players half his age. At a Sports Power Workshop at the 1994 Silva International Convention in Laredo, he related the following about his experiences as an intuitive player:

“You always hear that the professionals are focused; they are ‘in the zone.’ The reason that they are at that level is because they are able to go into alpha and use it to do the things they need to do to be successful.

“You are constantly going into alpha, in and out, in and out. Your brain dips into alpha approximately 30 times every minute, for very short periods of time. But do we use it? Are we able to use it? You need to learn to use alpha, how to use it so that you can be able to extract the information that you need, whatever you need from alpha.

“A few years ago I heard an interview with Larry Bird, one of the top players in basketball. During the interview they were asking him, ‘How is it that you can make those no-look passes, without looking, without knowing who is behind you, and make them perfectly?’ He said, ‘I see the play develop before it happens.’

“What is he doing? Visualizing. He is doing it while he is physically moving around. You can learn to do those things, too.

“You can develop your intuition so that you can use it any time without having to stop and do a countdown. Intuition is very good because it can help you in sports, or in anything in life, to be able to anticipate. If you can anticipate what the opponent is going to do, this is true in business and in family life, if you can anticipate what your child is going to do, would that be helpful to you? Of course it would. In sports, it is the same thing.

“I am active in sports, softball primarily, and basketball. At my age, I need to have an advantage to be able to be out there and participate competitively.

“In softball, I play in the outfield. Normally they have kids there in their teens and 20s who are very fast, who can move and catch.

“One game last season I was playing center field. It seemed like everything was falling in place. I could actually picture the ball right before the batter hit the ball, and picture in which direction it was going. I was getting such a good jump on it that even though I don't have the speed that I used to have, that anticipation helped me make the plays. You can do that, when you learn to develop and use your intuition."

Giuseppina Del Vicario, who competed under the name Vidheya, won the Italian martial arts national champion in Tai Chi Chuan three consecutive years, competing against both men and women. She retired after that, undefeated.

For more techniques, please check out the Silva Star Athlete program and Think and Grow Fit: Jose Silva's Guide to Mental Training for Fitness and Sports coauthored with Ed Bernd Jr. and available in both paperback and eBook formats.


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