In slalom water skiing, Matteo Luzzeri says, “you’re playing tug of war against a 6.2-liter engine boat.” Injury—both from overuse and from sudden, traumatic events—comes with the territory.
On this week’s episode, Matteo shares the story of his most serious injury, a ruptured Achilles in September 2014. The experience was all the more challenging because it came at what could’ve been the peak of his career, and after he’d just moved to a new city. With the support of friends and fellow athletes, and expert medical care, he made a return to the water the following spring.
On top of his own athletic accomplishments—which include the Italian Championships, a National Collegiate Championship with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2010, and two podium placements on the Pro Tour in slalom in 2014—he’s a coach and just completed his Ph.D. in sport psychology. This combination gives him unique insight into how the mental affects the physical, and the mindset techniques that work to navigate any type of adversity.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- More about the way injuries are viewed in the sport of waterskiing, including why there’s support in the community around the issue (6:58)
- His early injury history, and why those sustained outside the sport can be extra frustrating (9:17)
- How the biggest injury of his career—a ruptured Achilles in 2014—occurred and affected him (13:06)
- The sage advice he got from another pro about mentally reframing his injury recovery (19:47)
- The incredible support he received from a friend post-surgery (24:41)
- How a decision he made about his equipment contributed to his injury, and what he felt about that afterward (27:26)
- What it was like to get back in his skis after months away (34:09)
- The empty-chair technique and how athletes can use it in their own mental skills work (44:44)
- The tremendous power of a social support network in navigating almost any setback (47:25)
- How athletes dedicated to mastering their craft can view injury as a new puzzle to solve or challenge to overcome (49:31)
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Resources/links we mention:
- A further description of the empty-chair exercise, from the British Psychological Society
- Matteo’s podcast, The Water Ski Podcast
- Matteo’s Instagram and Twitter
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