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Becoming a Mentally Tough Competitor:
An Interview with Taylor Woods

Written By: Sean M. Chamberlain, Owner/Sport Psychology Consultant –
Over the Edge Sport Psychology Consulting, LLC

If you ask most riders, the sport of FMX has a large mental component. Being a mentally tough competitor could potentially mean the difference between walking away from the X-Games with a gold medal or leaving on a stretcher wishing that you fully committed to that last jump. How does a rider become mentally tough?

You have heard of words like focus, goal setting, relaxation, and visualization. These terms are known as mental skills and riders use these skills and sport psychology to help with their performance. Sport psychology is the study of athletes and the factors affecting their performance. Riders can work on their performance and mental game by seeing a sport psychology consultant (SPC).

As an SPC, I have been working with FMX riders on their performance and safety. Before the AFMXA Amateur Contest, I met with amateur rider Taylor Woods to talk about his mental preparation for the contest and what it takes to be mentally tough in FMX. I serve as his SPC and permission was given to me to talk about his mental training. This is what he said:

SC: What does mentally tough mean to you?
TW: Being mentally tough is when you believe in yourself and don’t let things such as accidents, people or things that you can’t control get to you. You work around the wall that lands in front of you rather than give up. You don’t let anything bring down your belief or abilities.

What is the difference between a rider who is mentally tough (or mentally ready) and one who is not?
The difference between riders that are mentally ready and not are that those that are mentally strong are confident and aren’t sitting around thinking about negative thoughts, like the "what if's.” You are completely confident in what you are about to do. Those that aren’t mentally ready are sitting around thinking way too much and very tentative when riding and it all is from anxiety.

How has sport psychology and mental skills training helped your performance?
Since I've been applying sport psychology into my training it has helped me stay accountable for my goals and riding. It has helped me with everything from learning new tricks to my riding schedule. It’s taught me that you can practice without being on the bike with visualizing what you can do over and over in your head. If you see yourself doing something it builds confidence and helps you with new tricks. It just kept me motivated because I have someone [you as my sport psychology consultant] checking in on me and encouraging, giving me ideas and helping with issues that I might be having. You work with me to see what works for me and we go from there and I work on it to better my riding.

[Taylor Woods and Libor Podmol]

How are you mentally training for the AFMXA contest?
I'm just staying positive and visualizing two different runs. The two runs have different tricks in them. So I'm working on memorizing them and visualizing myself doing them. Lately, I have been dealing with bad weather so rather than sitting around knowing that I haven’t practiced as much as I'd like, I try to work on visualization. I've also been going through my tricks and separating my best looking ones from the okay ones. Then I pick which I feel most comfortable and confident with and I am making the ones I'm best with into a run. That way I am doing the tricks that present the best and I am most confident and comfortable with. Staying positive and having fun is huge and keeps me from stressing.

What is the importance of mental training?
I personally believe that being mentally strong is way more important than being physically strong. You can be in the best shape of your life for FMX and if you’re not mentally strong you are not going to do well. If you are tentative, scared, not focused, stressed or anything like that, you will get hurt. It only takes a couple of seconds of one of those mistakes and you’re going to the hospital. So exercising your brain/mind and teaching it how to recognize negative vibes and how to regain focus is very important. I don’t know why this hasn’t been pursued more in this sport but I'm glad it is now and stoked to be a part of it.

Anything else you would like to add about being mentally tough or sport psychology?

Sport psychology is just as if not more important than being physically fit. Things really do scar you and people need to figure out their own way mentally to overcome it and to move on or else you’re going to have a hard time progressing. Since doing this, my riding has gotten better and it was a blessing because I was going through a huge mental block before this.

Thank you for your time.

Taylor is a strong mental competitor because he understands the importance of the mind game for performance and safety. Over the Edge Sport Psychology Consulting, LLC can help riders towards peak performance and safety.

Sites to Check Out:
Over the Edge Sport Psychology Consulting:
Taylor Woods Blog:

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