All posts by Kara Zakrzewski

Coach Kara, Kinesiologist, M.A. Sport and Performance Psychology, and Olympic-class athlete, is the Founder, CEO, and Chief Mental Toughness Coach at Mental Toughness Inc. With over 17 years of experience in the sport and performance industry, 7 of which was spent competing as a professional athlete, and after working with 1000s of athletes to develop their mental toughness, Kara is recognized as a leader in the field of sport and performance psychology. Together with her Mental Toughness Team, Kara is committed to sharpening your mental edge so you too can MAX OUT YOUR PERFORMANCE.

Your mind quits first, but keep going.

It is your mind that determines what’s possible.  You’re so much more powerful, more capable, and more resilient than you think.  Learn to trust your body.  There will always be pain when you’re pushing yourself to the next level.  It’s outside of your comfort zone, you’re entering into unchartered territory, you’re body doesn’t quite know how to get there yet.  Your mind will quit first, I promise you.  You’ll give up on yourself, on your body, and on what’s possible.

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If at first you don’t succeed. . .

You often don’t know how the competition is going to end

I just got off the phone with one of my rockstar athletes.  If you don’t already know, I work with a lot of young gymnasts. Gymnastics is a sport of inches, and mental toughness can really make or break their performance.

At the Canadian Provincial Championships this past weekend, one of my athletes got to experience first-hand the power of mental toughness (and mental toughness training).

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Dreams can come true…

Say hello to my athlete Maddie, in her first World race competing for Canada at the Junior World Snowboarding Championships in Italy just over one week ago.

I started working with Maddie about 2 years ago now, and at that time she was extremely talented, yet she kept falling on her second run.  Through consistent mental toughness coaching and training, and learning how to manage her snowboard goals while taking a full university course-load, she received the news of a lifetime about one month ago: she was one of three Canadian women selected to the Junior World Snowboarding Team.

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Goals don’t work, unless . . .

Yes, you read me correctly: focusing on your goals doesn’t work, in fact goals don’t work unless you don’t focus on them.  Let me explain.

To get the most out of your performance, it’s imperative that you maintain present-minded focus.  If you’re not focused completely on the present moment, your opportunity for performance declines correspondingly.  So, if you are distracted by a thought about the future or about what you want (or don’t want) in the future – your “what ifs?” or “shoulds”, as I refer to them – you simply cannot play your best.

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Something to think about

I’m always amazed at the inspiration that comes from children’s movies. One of my favourites is Kung Fu Panda. In the movie, a food loving, out of shape panda named Po aspires to be a Kung Fu Master. After a funny series of events, he is accepted into the Kung Fu training program led by Master Oogway, a wise old turtle.

One of my favourite lines by the wise Master Oogway really gives some food for thought:

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I am reminded right now, as I keep trying harder and harder to figure out what profound message I’ll write right now (with less ideas coming the harder I try to think of them), of what my national team coach Lorne Sawula used to say to me. Lorne would proclaim ‘You make the easy look hard and the hard look easy!’. In other words, I suffered from analysis to paralysis – over-thinking to the point where I could no longer perform simple tasks, because with these easy tasks, there was space for me to think.

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Why we designed a mental toughness training program

I’m so excited that this day has finally come! The North American launch of our new home-study Mental Toughness Training Program for Champion Athletes.

Over the past five years, I’ve worked with athletes across North America on elevating their mental toughness to max out their performance and I’ve been surprised that there are so many athletes bumping up against the same performance barriers.

Have you ever wondered what sets apart the Champion Athlete from the rest of the pack – like, what has two athletes of equal talent perform at different levels?

Nine times out of 10, the champion athlete is able to mentally outlast their competitor: It’s that simple.

Yet, the majority of athletes do not train their mind, they bank hundreds of training hours each month, and they spend next to none of that time training their mind. Then they wonder why at clutch moments, when the pressure is on, they underperform.

I spent two years researching and writing my Master’s thesis on this very topic: What has athletes perform or underperform at the biggest competition in the world, the Olympics? What’s the experience of anxiety like for the champion vs. the second-string athlete?

You can read my full thesis on mental toughness here:  >>

The research was unanimous: Those who performed at the Olympics were those who placed a priority on training their mind, those who had specific mental practices that would have them shine when the spotlight was on.

Athletes like Kerri Walsh, 3x Olympic Gold Medalist (who took part in my study) were adamant about training their mind. In fact Walsh shared with me that she’s ALWAYS anxious – she simply has the mental toughness to combat any anxiety and to perform at her best.

Yet, so many athletes I spoke and worked with over the past five years did not have this mental discipline, they were super talented when it came to sport skill; however, they simply could not perform at their peak consistently at key moments.

I knew from my own sporting experience the true value of mental toughness training, as even with a dedicated sport psychologist by my side, I still found the mental game my most difficult opponent.

This lack of mental toughness training spanned all sports, all ages, all provinces, all states. I could see it was really a North-American-wide phenomenon, the next unchartered frontier in sport performance.

I knew we at Mental Toughness Inc. had to do something about this cross-continent mental toughness epidemic, but how could we possibly reach millions of athletes to transform the North American mental toughness culture.

That’s when we turned to modern technology and created a mastery series of three Mental Toughness Training Programs for Champion Athletes: the Kickstarter, the Fear Buster, and the Results Booster.

How the Training Program works:

These programs in our Mental Toughness Mastery Series, spanning 16 weeks in total, will give any athlete of any discipline and any age all the tools s/he needs to rapidly expand their mental toughness.

And the best part: Athletes can train their mental toughness using the downloadable MP3 files whenever and wherever they want! We know how busy it is to be an elite athlete, so we wanted to make this program as easy as possible for the busy athlete to use!

So for only about 30 minutes of dedicated study time per week, we guarantee the athletes using our program will see a dramatic increase in their mental toughness!

I couldn’t be more excited and proud of the opportunity these three mental toughness training audio programs provide for all athletes, worldwide. I’ve literally poured my heart and soul and all my wisdom – every single mental toughness tool we use with our private clients are included – into these audio programs.

And, given you are are reading this post, we’ve decided to give you a deep discount on the program price. We want to make it a no brainer that all athletes purchase this program, and we definitely don’t want cost to get in the way.

We made it a no-brainer for you:

This is reserved for our email list subscribers but since you read this article you can have the special deal too.

Your special discount on our first program – the Mental Toughness KICKSTARTER Training Program for Champion Athletes – is available here. You may notice it is regularly $97 (see here).

Today, for you, it is almost $60 off. Learn more

So that you too can MAX OUT your performance by elevating your mental toughness.

Thank you so much for the inspiration and motivation to fulfill on my life’s work through the creation of these programs, they really are my legacy. I’m so excited to share in your success as you too become a Mental Toughness CHAMPION.

Until next time, train tough!

Coach Kara
…and the Mental Toughness Team

P.S. Don’t forget to access the Kickstarter training program -including your special $37.50 pricing from this link: CLICK HERE

P.P.S If you want a free tool from the program to see how effective it is, click to get it here.

How to win 100 regular season games in a row

What would it take for you to win more than 100 regular season games in a row? To be the winner in over 100 straight competitions?

Imagine that! Talk about mental toughness!

Few athletes or teams have accomplished this in their career. The first team that comes to mind is 3x Olympic Gold Medalists Misty May-Trainor and Kerri Walsh: The most winningest team in sport history.

I am proud to say that a team that I’ve worked with for the past two seasons – the Humber College Hawks Volleyball Team — did just that as they completed their regular season by capturing the (Ontario) provincial gold medal.

Humber Volleyball won 100 regular season games in a rowAt the end of their gold medal victory, the Hawks had won 105 straight games and won 9 straight Provincial Championships. Tomorrow (March 11 2016) they start their run towards a national championship gold medal.

Two of their graduating athletes were live on Breakfast Television last week. Check out what they had to say about the accomplishment: click here

When I asked Hawks 5th Year Captain, Thalia Hangman, what wisdom she wanted to share with you, she shared the following:

"Don't strive for what's acceptable. Always strive to be great!"

Having worked with the Hawks, here are the Top 3 reasons why I say they’ve achieved this result.

Top 3 Reasons for Humber’s Success:

1. Expert Coaching and Training Environment

The Hawks bench is very deep: Anyone could play on any given day. This has created an intense practice environment that’s sometimes more competitive than their games. Combine that with expert coaching by Chris Wilkins and his crew, and you’ve got a hotbed for talent production.

According to the The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. by Daniel Coyle, these sort of training environments where you’re pushed to the edge of your ability are the breeding ground of the best athletes in the world. By pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, you are more rapidly able to develop new skill patterns in your brain.

2. Tough Love

The Hawks are a family. And like families, they have it out every once and a while. They are willing to speak their mind and have tough conversations because of their love and commitment to their team, to their family. They hold each other accountable for their performance. At the end of the day, it’s all for the betterment of the team.

3. A Commitment to Mental Toughness

Led by their coaching staff and captains, the team has embraced their mental toughness training.

The captains were on weekly mental toughness calls, they had monthly mental toughness workshops, and in between they tested out the different mental toughness tools to determine what worked best for them.

One of the hardest things for any team is playing against those teams who are less skilled than you – what you tend to do is to play down to their level. It takes even more mental toughness to compete against lower ranked teams and win, then it does to do so versus those teams at your ranking. This wasn’t always easy for the Hawks, yet they came up victorious each time.

Next week, I’ll share with you one of the top mental toughness tools I taught the Humber Hawks this season, so stay tuned . . .

Congratulations Hawks. We’re all rooting for you this weekend as you go for gold!

Coach Kara

PS. Keep tuned to your email as we have just finished creating some amazingly effective tools, products and programs to boost your mental toughness, so you can have the same success as the Humber Hawks. You might have seen a couple of message from us already. If you missed it, check out this new performance ebook.