Patrik Kittel - “winner skull”


Swedish national team anchor Patrik Kittel continues his chronicles on Ridenews. He brings up an important theme with having a winning mentality - something you achieve, not born with. In Swedish the term “vinnarskalle” literally “winner skull” can best be translated into  a winning mentality, a positive competitiveness.

I listened to a radio interview on Swedish sport channel Radiosporten with my national team colleague Therese Nilshagen. The reporter asked Therese who she thought had the most winning mentality in the dressage national team. I was equally happy and surprised when I heard her answer: PatrikKittel.

Throughout my career I have been told the reverse. "Patrik Kittel has no winning mentality"

I have always been told that I do not have a winning mentality but for example Jeanna Högberg has it – a winning mentality. No discussion there, Jeanna is great at entering the course and give everything.

How does it rwork really? Are you born with a killer instinct?

I have thought a lot about it. How do you get a winning mentality , what is it that determines if you will be the one who wins and take what you deserve? Is it a trait you as a rider are born with? Do you get it because you have parents with money and resources to support you? Are the early successes during the pony years making all the difference?

Hard way for me

I have always had a lot of performance anxiety before a competition. I have been nervous about competing and performing on the course. I can still be anxious today, but I have more and better tools to handle it. But the first few years were difficult, it took time before I became a rider that people wanted to work with. During my upbringing in the equestrian world, there were some things that trainers and others often repeated.

I was often told that I couldn't ride.

That I wasn't good enough.

That I didn't have enough money.

That I didn’t have enough talent and prospect in me.

In the end, it takes its toll on you 

In the beginning I shook it off and told myself that everything was ok, anyway. I clung to my rubber duck, managed the self-doubt as best it could. The rubber duck has been with me since the beginning, it helps me to focus, laugh and make yet another effort.

Then I moved abroad and worked. I was in a place where I was told every day for several months: You are useless! You can't ride, you have no feeling, you are not right for this!

Of course this didn't just happen just to me, many have experienced the same thing. Unfortunately, I'm not alone at all having thisexperience. It doesn't really help that people around you urge you to shake it off, the voice of doubt has finally entered your interior.

Tough consequences

You have come to a point when you begin to believe the voices, you start to doubt yourself. It makes you ride worse, ponder more. You dare not open up, you dare not perform. You have entered into a position where you are always afraid of making mistakes. Mentally you tell yourself that you don’t have a winning mentality , you have reached a point when you cannot fight against the negative thoughts.

Often, the environment meets this situation with quick conclusions and urges you to take action: Why not leave your toxic environment or move on to another job?

It's not that easy. Me and many with me have invested too much to want to give up, lots of time. Perhaps the negative influence is a person you look up to very much, your greatest idol since several years back. You don't see any wrongs with them - just with yourself. It's not that easy to give up and just leave, it feels like an even greater loss. To give up, what a looser as well.

I got out of my situation, moved, worked on and struggled. Over time, I have become a strong person mentally, today I am in a completely different place.

How come my students are successful?

The first piece of the puzzle on the way to getting a winning mentality is that you have to believe that it can be achieved. From the start, some students have a lot of faith in themselves and a plus balance on the self-confidence account, which is good. Other students have received these negative reviews too many times so that it has stuck. Some previous trainers have flung things out like: You are too fat! You lack feeling! You only have money, you just buy the wrong horses!

In the end, this has etched itself in as truths among these students. They have lost all chances of becoming a winner in that situation. My job is to get them back to the situation that they are equipped with a winning mentality.

How do I do it?

I have learned a lot from Kjell Enhager, my mental coach for several years. What I try to do for my students is to help them build up a plus balance on their self-confidence account.

They should add plus to their account - collect on good things they do, good memories, the right feeling in the saddle. This makes you develop your winning mentality.

For me, the winning mentality is that you believe in yourself enough to convince yourself to think that you can do it. In itself it develops the winning mentality.

An ongoing work

Most people think that when you are at my level you do not have to continue working on it. I can hear that "now has reached such a level that now it is no problem anymore."

Although I have had a lot of success today, I hear these comments around me.

People want to say about me that I do not fully commit myself on the course, that I do not provide for me. They say that I am better at training horses is to compete on their own. Although I know it is BULLSHIT, there is something in my subconscious mind that takes on. It takes me back to my younger self when people hammered into me that I didn't die, if only for a short second. In spite of everything I achieved, it still does. Still, I quickly get a sense of doubt - maybe I'm not a winner skall anyway, maybe I miss that little extra?

Young people need support

When you are developing horses and young riders, mental support is needed. Someone who can make you believe in yourself, someone who builds you up, who makes you think your goal is achievable. Maybe a coach, maybe a coach, someone who gives constructive criticism. You need someone in your environment who believes that you can actually perform.

Everyone can become a winner

The winner skull is for me not a specific characteristic that you are born with, something you have or are not equipped with. It is a mood, just like talent it can be developed with the help of knowledge and training. It is like a muscle that can be trained and improved, just as your talent becomes more refined the more you learn.

And, it's something you have to work with always to keep. No matter how good it goes, periodically, someone who makes a hurtful comment.

Triggers and Thieves

There are a thousand things that can hurt, from comments about your riding, the horse or how you got to your place today. A good day, you may not at all take care of you, another day so it hurts badly and the doubts begin to spin. What do you do then and how do you travel after getting such a thief type? You have to work with it forever, and that means you work to get better. There is a stimulus in that "I will show them" too, that will make you struggle more.

My best advice for getting up

I searched for things that gave me security, my family and my mental coach as KjellEnhager. He has been my coach for 20 years, three words from him put me in the right mood because I trust him. Find someone you trust.

When I need to get up, I watched movies where it went best. I watched movies with the very best riders on the Olympics. I found things that removed my own doubts

Anyone who rides, competes, trains can end up in this situation. You can't just shake off, but you have to have methods to get out of the depression sweat. Look for your personal triggers that will help you up.

My concrete advice when it happens:

Listen to your family

Be with your animals - they see when you are sad but are then even more comforting

Take the help of a mental coach or some other safe person

Write down good moments so you can relive them

Look at photos with positive memories

Everything to break the thinking that "I am no winner I am a looser". One day when you find your own triggers and you can make yourself strong again then you are a winner in my eyes.

Here you find the original article from Ridenews.