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NFL Kicker Busts Through His Anxiety

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  • March 10, 2013
  • Mark Schulman

NFL free agent Clint Stitser relies on strict visualization techniques that not only enable him to focus as a pro athlete, but as the head of his residential real estate business.

“For me it’s an outcome-based obsession (clarity about the goal). I build a tunnel to my target. I walk the field anytime I have the opportunity. Even when I’m driving on the freeway, I focus on the big light pole a mile ahead. I practice funneling all of my emotions and energy down the line right into that light pole. There can be all these things going on around me, whether it’s a stadium going nuts, a baby crying, whatever it is, and I just practice mastering all of my emotions and energies funneled right to my target, and I don’t give a damn about anything else.

“I don’t care where my head position is. I don’t care how my body does it. Harnessing the energy keeps me from being mentally weak and becoming afraid—or letting the situation take control. I do this by associating pain with weakness, pain/pleasure association. I’ve worked on the associative techniques, and I’m associating pain with being unfocused and pleasure with being focused.”

Clint focuses on results. That’s why he plays golf. He goes out to the driving range where he can practice controlling his emotions and focusing his energy.

Here is how visualization applies to his business life and, as an example, a realtor doing a listing presentation or negotiation. Residential real estate is an emotional transaction. Sellers have poured their hearts and money into homes that in today’s market may be going for substantially less than their investment. Buyers are purchasing based on their dreams for the future. Transactions can take months. Emotions are high, and people can say or do things they don’t mean.

“When it comes down to a key negotiation with a bank or a seller or meeting a certain requirement for a loan, you don’t want to allow any ‘noise’ that’s occurred over the previous six to eight months to hinder your decision-making process to execute your portion of the deal. I employ that tunnel vision, because there’s a point when you could easily sit there and point fingers back and forth and battle one another.

“All this noise can kill the deal. What you can do is bring everything back to basics; focus on the simple objective. I have to do that on a day-to-day basis, and you have to hold people’s hands in that process to help control their emotions. The football in front of me is gonna be funneled right down this hallway I’ve built. All my emotions and energy are going right there in a positive way. The inhibiting thoughts that create fear are no longer part of me.”

Clint has a thought process (he calls it a modality of concentration). It’s directed, it’s positive and it coheres to his body’s personality. All the negative thoughts that are based on uncertainty never show up.

“If you let your mind create enough evidence to make fear appear real, then you can be debilitated by it. At the same time, your mind can also create enough evidence to focus and create the goal that you want. You can either let emotions cripple you or you can harness them.”

Clint talks about the distraction of the jumbotron at Baltimore Stadium. It’s behind the uprights, right where a kicker might look. There’s his big face.

“When you’re picking a target, and it’s a close-up of you; it can really screw you up. So, you have to pick something either below or above it. When I build that tunnel, stupid stuff like that no longer becomes a factor. I’m zoned in to my target with laser vision. The holder takes his spot, and I give him a reassuring pat on the head or a high five, just to build a little extra rapport in the moment. I take a deep breath; I just do a natural release. I’ve been doing it long enough to where I’ve even found what release works best for me.”

Clint most recently kicked for the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives under coach Jim Fassel, who isn’t known as tight-lipped when it comes to playing hard. “If someone’s not doing their job, he’ll just fire you, like right away. He doesn’t care who you are. If you’re not doing your job in practice, he’ll yell, ‘Give me a new left tackle!’ He had already fired two or three kickers by the first game. They got fired and I got hired. Every year he fires at least two kickers before he settles on one.

It seems that a kicker or anyone on a situation where one performance can jeopardize your entire career could foster some seriously overwhelming performance anxiety.  Clint’s antidote or Nerve Breaker is creating an instantaneous state of laser focus.  “At one point I envisioned Superman with his laser vision melting stuff. I had to get in the zone so intently, that I had two lasers coming out of my eyes that went right to the target. It helps me set the mentality of being the aggressor and not the aggressee.”

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