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Nathan Twaddle on Flow

Former World Champion rower, Nathan Twaddle speaks to Balance is Better on athlete flow and being in the zone to perform.

“You know from the sensation,” says Nathan Twaddle*. “You can hear the change as the boat cuts through the water, you can feel it through your feet as you drive and in the momentum as you swing through the stroke and you just know it’s all coming together. It’s extraordinary, when you feel it. It gives you goose bumps.”

Nathan is talking about what athletes should focus on. “When you’re in the boat, before the start of a pinnacle event, of course you want to win: that’s why you’re there, it’s why you got into sport in the first place: because you had this unrealistic belief that you have what it takes. And you’ve visualized standing on the podium, receiving the medal. But you have to put that out of your mind. 80% of what you think about should be how you’re going to row.”  

Nathan Twaddle (L) and George Bridgewater (R) in training.

They call it the ‘flow experience’, or ‘being in the zone’… that sensation people have when they are so totally absorbed in something they are very good at, that things seem to be happening without conscious thought. It’s the sweet spot, they say, between skill and challenge, between control and excitement. “When it happens,” says Nathan, “that’s when you know the boat is going as fast as it can. It’s the reward for listening to your coach. And you’ll either win, or you won’t, but you know you’ve done the best you’re capable of doing.”

“Winning or losing,” says Nathan, “is a moment in time. You feel the joy, or the discomfort, but more important is what did you learn?  If you want a long career in sport, it’s about picking a different measure and understanding you can never stop learning. It seems counter-intuitive, not to focus on winning, but winning is an outcome of consistently putting together a great performance.” 

Read more:
Find out how to support athletes with finding their flow in Creating Positive Sports Environments by Lara Mossman