The idea of assisting people into the zone was tried on go-kart racers. "At first, what we had was theoretical," says Stetz. "We took some measurements (in brain mapping studies), but then to actually try that on racers was a big next step. I think it's going to work, but I don't race cars. The next step is to try it on racers."
Stetz found go-kart racers to be willing subjects. "At first, my impression was that go-kart racing was the bottom rung, but it's not," he says. "Those guys are brave, and I don't know that I'd get on one and race it. I got positive feedback from them."
The next step was a professional racer, and his central Ohio ties put Stetz with ASA star Gary St. Amant. "This was a real big step, and I'm grateful to Gary. I'm approaching him saying, 'I have this procedure where I'm going to alter your brain physiology. Let me try it on you.' Who's going to say yes to that?"
St. Amant did. "Mentally, I felt different," says St. Amant. "We did it a few times and it helped. We did it at Anderson, which is one of my favorite tracks because you have to really get up on the wheel at that place. I felt like I was walking three feet off the ground that day. I really knew I was in the zone." St. Amant went on to win his first ASA championship that season. (St. Amant, who will be driving for Frankie Grill's Grand American Race Cars team in 2003, has won two titles and missed last year's by a single point.)
No Drugs Involved The procedure focuses on getting maximum performance from natural ability. "It's a drug-free program," Stetz says. "Neither Deb nor I can't give someone driving ability that they don't have. I'm not a coach. I don't have experience in racing cars. I can't coach anybody. We're making it easier for that driver, that athlete, to tap into the talent they have. Gary St. Amant was a great first professional experience for me because this guy has the talent, and if I can help him tap into that with less effort, that's why that was successful."
Getting in the zone is a process that involves relaxation, which runs against the grain of the idea that a driver has to be "pumped up" to compete. Adrenaline is not the driver's friend.
"Adrenaline is the enemy," says Stetz. "Adrenaline is a component of a stressed state. If you're spinning or somebody whacks you, that would stress me out. It has the potential of taking them out of the alpha frequency. Assuming they're still intact and the car is in one piece, they can settle themselves down and get into that alpha frequency. This situation kind of separates a good driver from a not-so-good driver. The good ones know how to settle themselves back down. That's the kind of thing Deb works with the clients on. We can't run out there and do our thing again, so we need them to settle themselves down."
Stetz says he has found the procedure is best suited for athletes such as racers and golfers. "Prior to working with racers, I worked with two NBA basketball players," he says. "The results are better on individual sports. In the NBA, there are five guys out there, and I'm only working on one of them. The logistics become a nightmare."
The Gender Issue
People are different, and the contention that men are different than women may not be applicable in this case. "No matter if you're male or female, you have a brain," says Boles. "You have a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere, and if you have stress, stress makes you stupid no matter if you're male or female. That's the bottom line."