ZONEfulness: The Ultimate Guide for Student-Athletes Audio Clips

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From the book, ZONEfulness: The Ultimate Guide for Student-Athletes

Listen to Joe’s Guided Zone: How to Access and Maintain your Peak Performance Zone:

Listen to Joe’s Guided Zone: Personal History of Success:

 



Listen to Joe’s sample audio file: Personal History of Success Zone Exercise.

 

On Deck Visions

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Power Booster Sessions: January-February 2012

mike“I wanted to come in because I feel I’m really close to making it. I mean I know I can do it but I’ve been having some doubts lately. I ask myself sometimes if I’ll ever make the big leagues. I also want to do a couple more zone recordings.”

Mike detailed how, while he was struggling in Triple-A the previous summer, he was able to remain positive and continue to believe in himself. I validated this accomplishment by commenting, “It’s not possible to be successful all the time, but an athlete’s mental approach can be consistently at a very high level. Your ability to be strong mentally, specifically by being self- supportive, is a huge strength of yours.”

Mike was certainly demonstrating an elite level of confidence and extreme self-support. This allowed him to have an unwavering expectation of making the majors.

The sessions in January and February of 2012 continued to magnify the technique of Future Memories of Success. Even though Mike believed in his ability, it’s human nature to have doubts. At 28, he was concerned that he could be considered past his prime if he didn’t break through and make the major league roster in the upcoming season.

Future memories were explored by experiencing the sights, sounds and feelings of playing at a peak level. Eyes open and eyes closed zone exercises were facilitated for Mike and two more zone recordings were made (one 8 minutes long, the other 12 minutes long).

As he sat in his familiar spot on the sofa across from me during our second session in January of 2012, I guided him to close his eyes and take five very slow, very deep breaths. As he created a rhythm of breathing comfortably I said the following:

“Mike you can trust yourself to really enjoy exploring all that you will experience and achieve this spring training, this season. But first, for about 30 seconds, you can transport yourself back to the on-deck circle, playing as a Cat, as well as a Bat. Feel the power, the focus, and the calm of anticipating success.

Now transport those experiences forward in time, floating forward into future memories of success and flow. That’s right. Experiencing yourself in the on-deck circle, zoning in, smiling, knowing, really knowing that you are going to hit the ball hard. See it. Feel it. Be there now . . .

Allow this experience of stepping into the sensations: the tunnel vison of the ball bursting out of the pitcher’s hand; the soundtrack of hitting a home run; the feeling of the summer breeze flowing through you all the time, any time . . . because this future time is your time. Feel it now. All the time.”

Mike left this session, as he did each time we met, with a powerfully calm energy and confidence about his future goals. In our final session in February of 2012, I simply said to him as he left the office, “Have fun, this is your time.”

A Real Time Dream Sequence

Mike was assigned back to Double-A ball after spring training camp broke in March of 2012. He was now a member of the Reds new affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, because of the sale of the Carolina Mudcats.

Mike lasted two weeks with the Wahoos. Stepping immediately into his peak performance zone, he was certifiably on fire the first 11 games of the season. His .333 batting average, bolstered by 3 home runs and 13 runs batted in triggered his promotion back to the Triple-A Louisville Bats.

Mike gladly reported to the Bats, now one step closer to achieving his goal. Playing consistently well through the second week of May, Mike settled into the grind of playing games every day. He did so with a flow and a confidence that followed him from Pensacola.

Scott Rolen was the starting third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds on opening day in 2012. Ironically, Scott is unquestionably the second best third baseman in Philadelphia Phillies history, behind Mike Costanzo ‘s idol, Mike Schmidt.

When Rolen suffered a shoulder injury in early May, the Reds needed to fill his roster spot when he was placed on the disabled list.

A Louisville Bat to a Pink Bat

Mike Costanzo was called up to the big leagues on May 12, 2012. His first game in uniform with the Reds was on May 13, which happened to fall on Mother’s Day.

“I was really pumped because my family was in the stadium. My mom and dad, Melissa (wife) and Ashley (sister) were all there. My son Michael actually got to see my first game in the big leagues . . . unbelievable. The game was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. but it was raining and the first pitch wasn’t thrown until after 4 p.m. It was cool to soak it all in during the delay.”

With both teams using pink bats to symbolize the fight against breast cancer and honor Mothers everywhere, Mike had the best seat in the house for the first 4 ½ innings of his first major league game, the Reds dugout.

In the bottom of the fifth, with the Reds up to bat and trailing 4-2, they had a runner on third base. Starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo was called back from the on-deck circle for a pinch hitter.

Voice of Public Address announcer: “Pinch hitting for pitcher Bronson Arroyo, Mike Costanzo.”

Mike’s view was about to get significantly better. “I knew Jackson was throwing gas so I just wanted to make contact and score Ryan from third.”

With Ryan Hanigan taking his lead off of third base, Mike settled into his stance and waited for the first offering from Washington Nationals pitcher Edwin Jackson. Swinging at the first pitch, Mike made solid contact and hit the 95 mile per hour fastball to deep left field. The sacrifice fly was successful as Hanigan scored easily from third base.

As Joey Votto, The National League’s MVP in 2010, capped off his three home run performance with a grand slam in the ninth inning, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Washington Nationals, 9-6.

Mike Costanzo was officially undefeated as a major leaguer.

Derek Jeter Calls Timeout: Yankee Stadium, May 19, 2012

Ten years after being named to the freshman all-American team as a designated hitter (DH) for Coastal Carolina University, Mike found himself in the Cincinnati Reds starting lineup as their designated hitter.

“I was starting at DH in Yankee Stadium. It was a completely packed house. Really an awesome experience.”

Mike struck out his first two plate appearances at the hands of Yankee starter, Ivan Nova. “I just wanted to stay in the game,” he told me. “I felt good at the plate and wanted another chance.”

With the Reds leading 5-3 in the top of the sixth inning, Mike made the most of his third plate appearance against Nova. With one out and the bases empty he roped a hard line drive to left field for his first major league hit.

“The hit was great for me. I had achieved a lifelong goal. But what was really amazing was standing on first base and watching Derek Jeter call timeout. He knew it was my first big league hit so he called time, turned to our dugout and threw the ball in so I would have it. I’ll never forget that.”

Mike is also credited with the game winning RBI in his first career major league start. His sacrifice fly to center field plated the Reds 6th run to make the score 6-3. The Yankees scored single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to make the final score 6-5, making Mike’s sac fly the difference maker.

There’s nothing like future memories making their way to the present . . .

 

An Ivy Dream

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John-Jaques-3December 6, 2009: Game #9: Cornell versus Saint Joseph’s

Open the Flood Gates

In his first ever collegiate start, Jaques played 23 minutes and scored 15 points as the Big Red defeated the Hawks of Saint Joespeh’s.

Two weeks later, on December 20th, he played 12 minutes and contributed 5 points in a win against Davidson University in the first game of the Holiday Festival at legendary Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

December 21, 2009: Game #11: Cornell versus Saint John’s

The Big Apple

The following evening at The Garden, with the game televised nationally on ESPN, John Jaques officially arrived.

Jaques led Cornell to a most impressive win over an extremely tough Saint John’s team. He did so by playing 26 minutes, shooting 7 for 8 from the floor, 5 for 6 from the 3-point line, and scoring a team high 20 points while playing his trademark intense defense.

Jaques said, “The biggest improvement in my game is my individual confidence. You can be as talented as you want, but if you don’t have the confidence to go out there and perform in a game, you’re going to struggle.

“Dowling came in and talked to us about the importance of forgetting the last play—whether it was good or bad—and moving on to the next one as a fresh start. That kind of hit home with me. I’ve always been my biggest critic. That’s probably been one of the reasons I’ve not had a lot of confidence in the past.”

March 16, 2010

3-Peating and the Big Dance

Cornell did indeed win their third straight Ivy League Championship by going 13-1 in conference play. They earned their third straight automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and finished the regular season with a 27-4 record.

Jon Jaques started 22 games for the Big Red. He averaged 8 points per contest and shot 50% from the floor while leading the team in taking defensive charges. And guess who led the Ivy League in overall 3-point shooting percentage? That’s right. Jaques shot 39 of 80 from behind the arc for the season.

“In my 25 years of coaching, I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I think the rest of the league feels the same way.” Coach Donahue continued, “Yeah, he hadn’t played in three years, essentially not a meaningful minute, which is hard to imagine, but the difference he’s made is phenomenal. I think he’s taken our team to a new level.”

And this year they were just getting started.

March 19, 2010

Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida

NCAA Tournament, Round 1

#12 Seed Cornell versus #5 Seed Temple

Cornell won their first ever NCAA tournament game and became the first Ivy League team since Princeton in 1998 to advance past the first round. The Big Red rather easily disposed of Temple, winning 78 to 65.

Senior Louis Dale led Cornell with 21 points and contributed 7 assists while the Big Red shot 56.3% from the field. They hit on 9 of 23 3-pointers and committed only 11 turnovers.

Jon Jaques played 34 minutes and contributed 6 points and 4 rebounds.

March 21, 2010

Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida

NCAA Tournament, Round 2

#12 Seed Cornell versus #4 Seed Wisconsin

Cornell continued its historic run through the heart of March Madness with an unbelievable 18 point win over the 4th seeded Wisconsin Badgers.

Cornell’s extraordinary seniors once again broke the game open with an early run and coasted to the finish line. Lois Dale had a career high 27 points, Ivy League player of the year Ryan Whitman scored 24, 7-foot center Jeff Foote contributed 12, and Jon Jaques chipped in with 9 points.

The win propelled the 12th seeded Big Red into the East Regional semifinals—the Sweet 16. The game was played just an hour from Cornell’s Ithaca, New York campus at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, against the top seeded Kentucky Wildcats.

March 25, 2010

The Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York

The Sweet 16

#12 Seed Cornell versus #1 Seed Kentucky

Playing about an hour from home on the campus of Syracuse University, this epic event in the history of Cornell University athletics was essentially a home game.

The Neuman Nation (Cornell’s fans were nicknamed for the arena namesake where the Big Red plays their home games) were out in force. An endless sea of red engulfed the tiny specs of Kentucky blue throughout the enormous Carrier Dome.

After trailing by 16 at halftime, Cornell was able to cut the lead to six late in the game. But that was as close as they would come. The Cornell dream season came to an end as the Big Red fell to Kentucky 62 to 45.

As the game rolled to its anticlimactic ending, The Newman Nation began chanting: “Thank you, seniors! Thank you, seniors!”

Coach Donahue said after the game, “I’ve been in this league (Ivy) for 20 years, and I’ve had three NBA players on one team (University of Pennsylvania) that didn’t accomplish nearly what this team accomplished. I know it sounds corny, but they love each other more than any other team in this tournament, in my opinion. That’s why we’re good.”

Cornell finished the season with 29 wins and 5 losses and a historic appearance in the Sweet 16.

Jon Jaques started and played 18 minutes with 0 points in his final college game.

But he still had one final chapter to write.

 

The Origin of ZONEfulness

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I had an “Ah-Ha” moment in March, 2014. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of an idea just crystalizing out of nowhere. The “Ah-Ha” is often so perfect that you find yourself wondering what took so long to discover it.

I was struggling to define my unique, experiential approach to being in the zone with student-athletes. My style includes elements of meditation, visualization, and even some hypnotherapy. Inherent in this model is an emphasis on the strength and future potential of each client I treat. Essentially, I practice peak performance positive psychology.

But I knew I was doing more. I facilitate a sensory experience for student-athletes. In session, I guide them to recreate the zone they experience when competing at their highest level. These zone exercises are the catalyst that propel each individual to access and maintain their peak performance zone while competing in their sport.

Zone exercises also enable student-athletes to more easily implement the principles of positive psychology that enhance confidence and generate extreme self-support. The zone exercises were initially characterized by an eyes closed, meditative state of relaxation. Subsequently, I began facilitating eyes open, active, alert zone experiences.

Incorporating eyes closed, relaxed zones, with eyes open, alert zones, enables clients to naturally translate their experience from my office to real time play in their sport. This desired, yet mysterious zone, manifested in competition, is now understood to be an accessible, powerful tool.

The student-athlete can, via specialized zone exercises and the principles of positive, strength based psychology, rapidly step into the flow and confidence that characterizes their peak performance zone. Yes, the zone lives inside of each person.

So what about this “Ah-Ha” experience? I was reading an article on PhillySports.com about the Penn State University men’s basketball team using mindfulness meditation as their as their primary tool for mental focus training.

Tim Frazier, Penn State’s all-time leader in assists, describes his experience: “The game moves so fast, it’s hard to focus on the here and now. Meditation slows me down [mentally], keeps me more relaxed and focused.”

Michael Baime, an internist and director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness states, “Elite athletic performance is mostly a mental game. Mindfulness practice really isn’t that different from athletic training. If you want to get neuroscientific about it, mindfulness practice changes the structure of the brain through which awareness operates. Just as running increases the strength of the quadriceps muscles, mindfulness practice strengthens the executive control function of the brain.”

Mindfulness meditation is about being in the moment. Specifically, it focuses on the experience of breathing and stillness. If a thought interferes with the experience, the meditator is encouraged to be curious and accepting while refocusing on each comfortable breath.

Zone exercises enhance perception and sensation. Revivification of the sights, sounds, and feelings of past successes and the magnification of future achievements are routinely experienced in this experiential process.

Mindfulness meditation is a critical element of the zone exercises. It provides a calming, peaceful space for student-athletes to experience prior to exploring, for example, their history of success zone; their future memories of success zone; or their extreme self-support zone. The mindfulness meditative state is a foundational element to the peak performance zone exercises I facilitate for clients.

And then it hit me. ZONEFULNESS.

Zonefulness is the integration of mindfulness meditation, peak performance zone exercises, and positive psychology. This book is a deceptively, profoundly simple guide designed for student-athletes to generate and maintain peak performance by accessing the zone that lives inside of them.

Finally, please enjoy the experience this book has to offer. You will have the opportunity to immediately exercise your zone and incorporate powerfully calm zonefulness techniques into your athletic performance, and your life.