Let’s Talk Green & Gold Zones

It’s track and field season for my family. This means I’m out of my office and at sport venues more frequently. Obviously, I love to cheer on my kids, but I also enjoy the chance to think sport psych while I’m there observing.

Both of my sons are on the high school varsity team, but they compete in very different events. My senior is a distance runner and my freshman is a thrower. While the events are very different, one thing that remains the same is the need for green/gold zone strategies.

What are green and gold zones, you ask? Read on!

The green zone is everything leading up to the event, right up until the moment it counts.

The gold zone is the game-on moment. It’s when the timer starts or the distance is measured.

Every athlete needs a green/gold strategy, but especially when your sport requires you to transition from green to gold and back several times during the competition.

Let’s stay with track and field. Running athletes have the time before and between races (green zone) and then the time when the gun goes off until they cross the finish line (gold zone). This happens for every race of the day (back to green then back to gold).

Throwing/jumping athletes have the time before their event begins (green zone), the moment they enter the ring/start their approach (gold zone), and the time between attempts (green to gold again).

While we’re using track and field as an example, softball, baseball, swimming, and several other sports also have frequent switches between green/gold zones.

Why is it important to differentiate between these zones?

The gold zone requires you to be “on.” You need to be in your “Game Day You” mindset. Focused, intentional, confident, and composed. If you’re doing that right, you can only stay there for brief periods of time. You’ll need to save that type of intensity for the gold zone.

The green zone is equally important, but less intense. This is where you start working up to your gold zone mindset. In track and field, the green zone starts with arriving at the track and progressively builds up in intensity as your event nears. When it’s the third & final call for your event, you should have yourself pretty close to locked in and at the hype level where you perform your best.

If you’ve done this right, it’ll allow you to save your energy and focus for the gold zone, which is when you need it.

How do you make your green/gold zone plan?

  1. Write out all of the moments associated with your sport in chronological order. (e.g. on the bus, set up camp near the track, warm up, check-in, more warm-up, waiting for your heat/flight, compete)
  2. Decide what intensity level is best for your performance. Then decide how you’ll build to that level throughout the green zone so that you’re there for the gold zone. (e.g. You like to compete at an 8. You’ll want to be at a 4-5 when you start warming up and a 7 when you’re waiting for your heat/flight)
  3. Determine how you’ll get yourself there, what actions you’ll take during each green zone phase. (e.g. Have a playlist that gets more intense as the event gets closer. If you tend to get too hyped, have a plan to stay loose. If you need more focus, have some silent game-face time as the competition nears).

This green/gold exercise will help you get in the right zone at the right time while conserving energy, which is so important for success in longer competitions.

Now you’re ready to put this in action. You’ve got this!

Dr. Sterling & The Sterling Sport Mindset Team

Have questions? Want more help personalizing a plan for you specifically? That’s what we do!

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