Nino Severino: Drew’s ‘sporting insanity’ will see him reach the top
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
In his latest column, Olympic coach Nino Severino shares a story of how one local up-and-coming young athlete is using mind coaching to aid his journey to the top of his sport.
In the modern world of sport, at the highest level, focusing on marginal gains is absolutely critical.
At The Hub, this is exactly what we help our local world-class junior athletes embrace through our sport science support programme. We are incredibly lucky to be supported by the Human Performance Unit based at The University of Essex.
The HPU works with some of the most talented athletes in the world, and have agreed to offer our portfolio of athletes support through our Elite Sponsored Programme.
And the latest athlete to benefit from the incredibly talented team at The HPU is Drew Kemp, the local young up-and-coming Great Britain international speedway rider.
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Drew is an athlete who I have got to know incredibly well and he is typical of a sportsperson of this calibre - normal in many ways, but completely abnormal in so many other ways that make individuals like him stand-out.
Drew is a perfect example of a "sporting outlier" - an individual who sits on the edge of the general populous, a young man who makes up the very small percentage of those who are amongst the UK's sporting super talented.
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His outstanding competitive successes throughout 2019 include being the U19 British Speedway Champion, finishing second in the U21 World Team Cup with Great Britain, winning the U19 European semi-final and being crowned National League Pairs champion.
When you think about speedway, you do not immediately think about a highly sophisticated sports science support programme, but Drew is definitely an individual who thinks outside the box.
He has been working with me and committing to a mental skills programme for almost a year now, and I can honestly say that my time with him is among the most valuable and rewarding of my weekly schedule.
He is a young athlete who has embraced the power of the mind in accepting that there are certain areas that can be controlled, and others that cannot.
He understands that there are specific and non-specific factors, some are positive and some are negative, and for him to reach the very top of his sport, he must develop the sporting personality and character that will create the strong foundations which his speedway skills can continue to be built upon.
I talk about athletes needing to be tucked in, just on the right side of insanity without bleeding into it!
I mean this in a very complimentary way, it's a state of mind that enables the athlete to embrace and endure the overloads that many of the population simply would never even contemplate.
This might seem an extraordinary statement, but Rafael Nadal explained it perfectly when he once said: "I learned during my life to enjoy suffering."
Legendary boxer Mike Tyson also adds validation to my statement - when once asked why he runs at 5am in the morning, he simply answered "because I know my opponent will not be."
You will notice I say 'tucked in' - just on the right side of insanity.
This is a place mentally that gives these athletes the edge, a very uncomfortable place that only a few can survive in, a place for world-class performers - and this is the reason there are so few of them, it's a place where many dare not venture!
It's a zone where physical, emotional and mental overloads can be endured which creates a super-fast, and super increased level of adaptation, a rate of development that takes these incredible athletes to the top of their game.
It also develops their personality and character; makes them the individuals they need to be to ensure that they can continue to walk through the very dark period many athletes will experience.
These challenging periods are where much of the development gold dust will lay, when others turn and run, these outliers simply keep walking through with a bullet-proof mindset that only gets stronger when they come out the other end.
It's this altered state of "psychological acceptance" that makes them who they are. The ability to endure the overloads, over and over and over again until they reach their personal aspirations.
Drew, for me, is an outlier placed perfectly in the positive zone of sporting insanity. A young man who dreams of being a heat leader in the Championship for the Eastbourne Eagles, and one day racing for his home team, the Ipswich Witches in the Premiership, on his way to becoming one of the best riders in the world.
I would bet all I possess on him achieving his goal.