For many Americans, sports is not just a hobby – it’s a crucial aspect of their daily lives, whether they are participating or following. Many athletes, both professional and amateur, train for hours to “get in the zone” come game or race time. But what happens to a person’s mental makeup when they can no longer play sports to the same degree?
Dr. Peder Piering has one answer in his book - Master Mental Toughness: Insights into Peak Performance Through Modern Day Science and the Ancient Martial Arts. The local clinical and sports psychologist started connecting the practices of sports psychology to the five tenets of Taekwondo when he became a student of the practice.
"As a sports psychologist, one of the things I do is try to identify the psychological profile of peak performance...or 'finding the zone,' being battle bright, when everything's automatic when you're performing fantastically," Piering explains. "In Taekwondo, that's referred to as the 'indomitable spirit,' and engaging that indomitable spirit is such an important aspect of that because I don't think people know what they are capable of."
For Dr. Piering, what started as a black belt essay turned into a book about how athletes and everyday people can utilize the tenets of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit integrated in Taekwondo to improve their lives and their outlook on performance.
"I love sport, I've been involved in sport my whole life," he says. "The difficulties we run into is that the professional model of entertainment, making money, and just winning is invading upon that developmental model."
Piering notes that being involved in sports has great benefits such as discipline, time management and teamwork. However, the paid sport model children see everyday does not show how an ideal athlete should present themselves - especially when it comes to courtesy.
"I think that sports in general neglects the aspect of courtesy," he says. "It's such an important piece of things because courtesy cultivates curiosity, it cultivates courage."
Master Chan Lee of J.K. Lee’s Black Belt Academy in Milwaukee adds that who you are as an athlete often reflects who you are outside of the sport.
"Martial arts and the mat that you train on, it's like a mirror," Lee says. "Because if you don’t try hard on the martial arts floor or if you’re lazy on the martial arts floor or if you’re a person who doesn’t have a lot of confidence or courage on the martial arts floor, you’re probably the same type of person outside of the martial arts school."
Piering encourages all to tap into their own "psychology of excellence" in order for "true victory" (based on an individual's best performance) to be the real accomplishment, both in sports and how you conduct yourself as a person.
"These tenets have built into them the things I teach to the athletes I work with," he says. "That mental toughness, the confidence required to excel is all within them."