Being in the zone is one of the most overworked expressions in sports, yet the phenomenon remains a mystery, partly because we are fooled into over- simplifying it. When we talk of athletes being in the zone, there seems to be at least four different types of such states:
1. The Arousal Zone A short spurt of arousal for one performance or part of one performance, often with channeled anger or another emotion as an additive. This results sometimes in tachypsychia, a phenomenon in which the action seems to transpire in slow motion. Example: Michael Jordan getting revenge on a foe who had embarrassed him in the media.
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2. The Painless Zone A short-term experience in which pain is temporarily numbed but which may result in a mind-body breakdown after the performance. Example: Kirk Gibson ignoring painful injuries to hit a ninth-inning homerun as his Los Angeles Dodgers won a 1988 World Series game.
3. Flow The more romantic version of mind- body harmony, usually with less arousal than the Arousal Zone, but with numerous similarities, including superior concentration. Example: gymnast Nadia Comaneci recording the first perfect 10 in the 1976 Olympics. Over the long haul, flow is probably healthier than other states of mind.
4. Long-Term Zone More of an emotional drive than the above three. Example: In 1997, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roger Clemens, with a need to prove something to the Boston Red Sox, the team that let him go, had his best season in years, winning the Cy Young when people said he was washed up.
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