Mastering Mindsets: Olympian on bridging the gap from good to great
By Greg Bach
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Noelle Pikus Pace missed out on winning a coveted medal in the skeleton event by a tenth of a second.
So in the amount of time it takes to blink our eyes a cherished dream fueled by years of relentless work was derailed.
But, as it turns out, not destroyed.
Bailing on her dreams, sinking into despair or allowing her thoughts to melt into self-doubt were never options in the wake of that fourth-place finish.
Instead, she refocused and reflected.
And was tremendous four years later on her way to grabbing a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“My greatest knowledge came through my failures and I told myself I never wanted to feel how I felt in Vancouver again,” Pikus Pace says. “Reflecting is a huge role in helping us learn from our mistakes. I’d go back and ask myself what went well, what didn’t go so well and how can I improve tomorrow? I just started picking it apart and putting the puzzle together.”
She trusted the path she was traveling, too.
Rather than fixating on outcomes she immersed herself in the daily pursuit of improvement.
“I didn’t worry about my times,” she says. “I was process oriented and results driven. I focused on what was right in front of me at that moment.”
And it all began with her mind.
“The power of the mind is everything,” she says. “Talent will only take you so far and skill will only take you so far, but really what it comes down to is between your ears.”
MATTERS OF THE MIND
A mom, an author, and a motivational speaker, she also is committed to helping young athletes in all sports navigate the mental barriers that can spoil performances and chip away at confidence.
“There’s this huge void in these athletes’ lives in not understanding how much their mind plays a role in their success,” she says. “And I just want to help bridge that gap.”
She offers a variety of online trainings and resources – you can learn more here – to help youth mold stronger mindsets and perform at their best in the biggest moments.
“For me, the rewarding part is seeing them become more confident, eliminating anxiety in their lives and just owning who they are and who they can be,” she says. “Yes, it’s important to learn the skills and techniques of your sport and to be committed, motivated, dedicated and intentional, but it’s also so important to learn the power of your mind because that is going to forever help you in your sport and also in life.”
A RESERVOIR OF RESILIENCE
Growing up, her high school days were filled with sports. She played soccer, basketball and softball, and competed in track and field. She added bobsledding her junior year and took up skeleton as a senior.
In the skeleton event athletes ride a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down and head first, while reaching speeds of more than 90 miles per hour.
“I have wonderful parents who taught me to never give up,” she says. “They taught me that when times get hard you keep pushing through.”
She went on to become a standout at Utah Valley State College, where she was a national champion in the discus, broke the school’s high jump record, and was a first team All-American.
“I’ve had many, many coaches over the years,” she says. “Some good, some not so good, and only a very few were amazing. And those that were amazing coaches understood the power of the mind. They helped me to celebrate my mistakes.”
And so when she stepped onto the medal podium in Sochi to have a silver medal draped around her neck, it marked the culmination of an amazing athletic voyage drenched in life lessons at every icy and very fast turn.
“For me it was more about the journey and who I was able to become along the way that I am most proud of,” she says.
So while she didn’t grab a gold medal the moment is still a mighty special one.
“For me it was striving to keep that healthier mindset of saying ‘I didn’t lose the gold medal, I won the silver,’” she explains. “There’s a huge difference in mentality there and the way we think about something. I had every right to feel like I lost the gold medal because I had won more races than anybody the previous two seasons but when I crossed the finish line and saw my family in the stands all I wanted to do was jump up and be with them and celebrate with them and shout ‘we did it.’ It was never just about me – it was about a team and it was about those that supported me all along the way.”
A powerful perspective for young athletes in all sports to wrap their arms around as they ride the ups and downs that will accompany their youth sports trek.
And learn that tapping into the power of their minds is an all-important step along the way.
“Mindset has to come from a person’s will,” she says. “If they want to change then that’s the very first step. If you have that desire to want to be better that’s where it all begins.”
You can follow Noelle Pikus Pace on Instagram @noellepikuspace and Twitter @noellepikuspace
Noelle Pikus Pace
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