Ward, D. T. (June 22, 2003). Poway youngster uses mind to help overcome jitters. San Diego Union-Tribune.

POWAY - "Today is a good day to wrestle."

"I've trained for this."

"I have good coaches."

Those affirmations seemed pretty silly to Ian Daube at first. Imagine repeating those phrases and others every morning when you wake up and before every competition. Daube, 11, thought it was a waste of time. That was until he realized the benefits before a recent wrestling meet.

"I've thrown up standing in line at competitions," Daube said. "It's called meltdown."

At the recent USA Wrestling freestyle state championships Daube said his routine was completely different. He didn't speak with anyone while awaiting the competition and simply ran the program through his brain.

"You feel like you have such an advantage," Daube said.

He also didn't throw up.

The competition is intense for a pre-teen athlete, but Daube exhibits an introspection beyond his years that apparently allows him to thrive.

The program Daube practices is a psychological training exercise that he said helps his anxiety before competition. It was conceived by San Diego State sports psychology professor Brent Rushall. It seemed to work for Daube at the recent state wrestling competition. Daube took first place in the 112-pound novice division, the first time he's won his division in five years with the Poway Slammers youth wrestling club.

It's hard to say if the mental program, which he started a month before the competition, was the prime factor, but Daube says it certainly has helped.

"I had to relax and visualize what I was going to do," said Daube, who will be a seventh-grader at Twin Peaks Middle School in the fall. "I think without it I wouldn't have won."

His outlook on the program is quite different from what he thought of it in the beginning.

"I thought it was stupid," he said. "Before going to sleep I have to contract and relax my muscles, look at an object in the room and say, 'Tomorrow is a good day to wrestle.' When you wake up you look at an object in the room and repeat it in your mind. I thought it wasn't going to work because it just seemed too unbelievable."

According to his mom and coaches, the practice has helped Daube on and off the mat.

"It's fascinating that you can train your psyche like you train your body for competition," said Sheila Daube, his mother. "I think he feels a little more confident, especially about competition, and he doesn't stress out."

Daube also has used the technique to help him in judo. It was his judo instructor, Gerald Lafon of Judo America, who suggested the program. The youngster placed first in his division at the 2003 California State Games Judo Championships held at Southwestern College last month.

Lafon said Daube had a meltdown last year at the junior national competition and didn't do so well. Next up for Daube is the USA Judo Junior Olympics in New Mexico next month. The coach expects the youngster to be ready.

"Ian's a good athlete in terms of the physical aspect of his performance, but he had a lot of issues with handling stress," Lafon said. "I thought the sooner he got on the bandwagon of controlling his stress, the more successful he would be down the road."

In judo, the idea is to focus only on the positive aspect of training. It's called being in Zen mode, Daube said. In his two years of practicing judo, he said he's never felt better when competing. He said wrestling and judo use very similar tactics and the affirmations work for both.

"I change it to, 'It's a good day to fight, and 'It's a good day to go all out and have a lot of speed,' " Daube said.

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