Georgia Wilson is a 22 year old, professional Hockey player, currently recovering from an ACL injury. Last year, Wilson was named part of the Hockeyroo’s national squad and is currently eyeing off a return to international competition. When she does, it will be her 18th appearance in the green and gold. I recently sat down with Georgia to discuss her approach to preparation, training, life-hacks and thinking like an elite athlete.
It’s evident upon meeting Wilson, that she possesses a high performance mindset. Mediocrity doesn’t really cut it. From her athletic physique, to the way she presents and applies herself: Wilson bears a high standard across the board. Delve a little deeper and you begin to see the internal machinations of an enthusiastically strategic mind. One that’s trained to find any advantage or opposition weakness and exploit it in pursuit of the end goal. The hallmark of any elite athlete.
Perhaps, what I like most about Wilson though, is that her success seems to have been built rather than given. Shorter than the average hockey player, Wilson is a workhorse. One whose determination and persistence seem to play a larger role in her success than mere genetics. Even the way she speaks is indicative of someone who appreciates how lots of little pieces make up the big picture.
“I would say I’m extremely driven to not only become the best athlete possible but also the best person that I can become. For me, that comes down to what I do on a daily basis.”
1. Take a Long Term Perspective
Ray Dalio refers to this principle as “2nd and 3rd order consequences”. In other words, it’s our ability to prioritise beyond the immediate consequences of our actions. A giant choc fudge Sundae might be delicious, but the resulting insulin coma and eventual weight gain are far less desirable.
Long term success rarely goes hand in hand with instant gratification. The 1st order consequences of running. (i.e. pain or boredom) need to be endured to obtain the 2nd and 3rd order consequences of fitness and endurance.
Wilson takes a similar approach to rehabbing from her injury:
“With my knee injury I’m ten months through what will hopefully only be a twelve month rehab. For me, I’ve learnt to work hard this year. I’ve had to train most days twice a day and had to work up the energy and courage to get back out there. Even though I’m not getting the immediate rewards, eventually in the long term, I really hope that they pay dividends.”
2. Diversify the Source of Your Training
Sometimes we can become so focused on our goals that we get stuck inside them; trapped in a bubble of ruthlessly focused devotion to our craft. All while the world outside is presenting countless opportunities to learn from other sources.
“Often when I’m developing and working on other characteristics in my life outside of sport, my sport benefits from it.” says Wilson. She credits investing in her relationships, communications skills and higher education with improving both her hockey and overall life balance.
“It all provides confidence that if things don’t go to plan… that I’m worth more than just being a Hockeyroo.”
This extends to studying other sports as well…
(On being a soccer fan) “The positioning and structure is quite similar (to hockey). In terms of their outlet passing and the way they press and attack. It’s a bit of a slower sport, in terms of the scoreline, but we definitely learn about being patient bringing the ball out of defence from them.”
3. Learn from Others, Analyse their Performance as well as your Own.
When asked what separates good players from those that elevate themselves to the next level, Wilson says analysis is the key.
“Initially when I first got into the national team I would only watch myself when I was analysing games. Something that I’ve learnt from the senior players is that we don’t just look at ourselves. We look at the team, we look at the opposition and we try to discover their strengths and any skills that we can add to our repertoire.”
Study your competitors. What do they do or not do? How do they strategise for success? Could you develop a strategy to counteract their strengths and turn them into weaknesses. When we develop our strategies in isolation, we’re really only taking in half the picture.
“It’s almost like cheating before an exam. If you’ve invested in that research and effort you really minimise the amount of external variables that can effect you.”
“What we’ll often do as a group is we’ll break up into different subsets and we’ll watch different games. Often from different tournaments, over a space of several months as long as it’s still relevant. Then we’ll come back together and really discuss our findings. If we manage to see patterns that several of the groups have brought up we’ll know those are most likely to be the tendencies of the opposition.”
As Steve Blank, (father of the lean startup movement) once said: “No business plan survives first contact with customers.” That first contact could come on launch day, after you’ve built up an inventory and put all your chips on the table: or it could happen in your equivalent of the film room. Through surveys, testing, and engaging with your market. So conserve some energy and allow your mind to learn through observation and visualisation. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
4. Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Training to exhaustion and endless repetitions are becoming relics of outdated coaching philosophies. When training with the Hockeyroos, Wilson says the team is keenly aware of the law of diminishing returns; where the benefits gained are less than the energy invested.
“When training for penalty corners, we’ll do a set of no more than around fifteen reps. We really focus on executing the right technique, rather than drilling them again and again. After each rep we’ll pause for feedback, take a moment to reset and then go again.”
The training is always situationally specific. Where possible, the team will record drills and use the footage to give feedback in real time. Again reducing the need for endless repetitions and conserving the player’s energy.
“What the data has found is that we will only have the ball (as an individual) during a sixty minute game for around one and a half to two minutes.”
Therefore, having a herculean motor that can get to every contest is nice. However, perfectly executing the required skills during your 90 seconds with the ball is far more important.
5. Use Cues to Trigger Positive Emotional States
Human beings are creatures of habit. We can either be intentional about them or unintentional, but the truth is they effect us all the same. Whether Wilson wants to focus, get more sleep or get in the zone, she uses cues to help transition into those positive emotional states.
Cue, noun: a hint or indication about how to behave in particular circumstances.
A cue is not aggressive or forceful. It’s simply a hint that you’re moving into a familiar routine. Rather than relying on her will power to ratchet into high performance mode, Wilson transitions there gradually through a series of steps.
The key is to build routines that consist of things you can control. Activities like brushing your teeth, washing your face, switching off your phone and switching on a diffuser before bed, are reliable cues that you should be able replicate anywhere. They tell your body that it’s time to relax and increase the likelihood of a quality night’s sleep.
You can follow Georgia on instagram @georgiawilson1996.
You’ll also hopefully see Georgia in action next year during the pro league from Feb – Jun. Those Hockeyroo games will be available online or on Fox Sports.
Until next time, think big, appreciate the little things and add a little magic to the world around you!