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Up a notch: Get your head in the game

Omori and IMG mental conditioning consultant Ali Le Vine talk about some of his mental obstacles and their possible solutions. David A. Brown

It was a most profound statement — the one that hit the mark with Takahiro Omori. Ali Le Vine, a mental conditioning consultant for IMG Performance Institute, had just spent 30 minutes sparring with Tak's admission that certain lakes defeat him before his first cast. Suddenly, she landed a straight right jab that clearly got the former Bassmaster Classic champ's attention.

"Sometimes, we just have to step back and give ourselves some credit for what we do well," Le Vine said.

Simple statement, big meaning — that's what Tak has been seeking during the past seven years at IMG. Le Vine shoots straight with Tak — same as with any of the other athletes training body and mind at the Bradenton, Fla., facility. And, as with those stars of tennis, football, soccer, etc., she tells the Elite Series pro that sharpening his game means conquering self-doubt.

In shallow water, Tak's a beast; but when the bite's deep, his confidence plummets. Moreover, he simply hates fishing lakes like Clarks Hill that have historically stumped him. He realizes negative assumptions impede his performance, but when it's just you and the trolling motor, the mind whispers.

What are other guys doing? Should I relocate? Will I finish in the money?

"After two hours with few bites, it's tough not to get distracted," he said. "That's why I need a mental edge — to stay focused on my game."

Le Vine, a former collegiate soccer player, broke it down into a manageable plan:

  • Control what you can: Tak often stresses over changing conditions and the progress of other anglers. He influences neither, so Le Vine told him to focus on the "controllables" — attitude, concentration and effort.

  • "There are some things you can always control," she said. "This makes us feel better and helps us overcome the things beyond our control. Ask yourself, 'What are the things you need to do to be successful?' If we can replicate those things, we're more likely to achieve success."

  • Consistent dedication: Tak digs the spring spawn, but dragging a jig offshore is not his idea of fun. When he expressed his dread for competing in unfavorable situations, Le Vine encouraged him to equally embrace the good and the bad of his job by focusing on those controllables.

  • "If I just want to survive something, my attitude is already pretty bad," she said. "When we start thinking like that, it makes the task harder, like we're walking uphill. If we think, 'I like doing this,' we become more passionate about it."

  • Select the right target: Shooting for a win at a lake on which he's never finished in the money may be unrealistic for Tak. However, aiming for, say, 50th place creates a "can-do" scenario.

  • "Now you have a realistic goal," Le Vine said. "One, I've taken the pressure off. Two, I've given myself something to focus on. Three, I've given myself a reason to put in more effort and enjoy it more. If I'm motivated to do something, success is more likely."

  • Respect the mountain: No one just climbs Mount Everest. Intense planning, preparation, conditioning, failed attempts — that's the usual formula. The same wisdom bears out for defeating a brutal lake.

  • Le Vine told Tak to make that hated lake his Everest. You can't climb it all at once, but chipping away at reasonable objectives leads to the summit.

Such lessons have given Takahiro Omori a new and more confident outlook on his performance.

"My goal is to bring the best of me — not just to win the tournament."

In any outcome, he'll give himself credit for a job well done.