How do professional athletes perform at such high levels? Natural ability plays a major roll and physical training is essential, but there's also a mental component. Michael Jordan wouldn't have hit clutch shots if he were overcome with anxiety, and Ray Lewis wouldn't have made so many memorable tackles if he weren't so hyped up. Elite athletes know how to prepare themselves to compete at the outer fringes of their ability, and their pre-game strategies are more defined by what works than by what makes sense. Some football players do yoga while others eat cookies – but both players are following a system that yields results for them.
Here's how some of the all-time greats prepared themselves to succeed at a high level. It's only crazy if it doesn't work.
Before playing one of the world's most violent sports, Curtis Martin would do something decidedly calmer. The former New York Jets running back read Psalm 91 prior to each game. The passage asks believers to declare their trust in God, who serves as "refuge" and "fortress." The message is unexpectedly passive considering the context, but the healthy dose of perspective helped Martin delineate his life on the field, which he could take responsibility for, and his life elsewhere, where fate, luck, and maybe even the divine played a larger role.
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