Focus and Re-Focus
Being able to focus properly can help you perform as you want to. During practice or competition you should be able to focus completely on what you are doing. When the unexpected happens, you should be able to respond instinctively. Also, you should be able to tune out distractions and not be bothered by them. These are all aspects to a formula for excellent focus.
Did you know that you can practice how to focus by following these steps:
- Take two deep, cleansing, calming breaths to help you focus or refocus (if
you find yourself losing focus).
- Focus on the positioning of your body, e.g., assume your "ready position"
and feel your own strength and readiness from with-in.
- Now, switch your attention from the inside to the outside, see everything,
and attend to your surroundings, your opponent, and your position.
- Choose a powerful, positive word or phrase that gets you up and ready.
This word sums up your commitment and drive to compete, repeat that
word to yourself.
- Now, be sure to focus on one or two aspects of a skill (e.g. technique)
rather than the score or the outcome of competition. Focus on perfecting
the skill at hand. A paddler may say "reach” or a softball player may focus
on "stroke the ball". Repeat this word or phrase to yourself and you are
ready to take on anything!
The ability to control emotions and to concentrate on the task at hand is critical to
top performance. One of the biggest distracters for athletes can often be themselves. Sometimes when athletes strive for excellence, they can be extremely hard on themselves. In many cases this can be beneficial as it can enhance motivation and the drive and pursuit of goals. However, negative thoughts and images can also interfere with athletes' ideal focus, and in turn, adversely affect their performance.
Did you know that you can think more positively by:
- Living in the present. Do not dwell on what you should have done or agonize about what you must do tomorrow. Do your best at what you are doing at every moment of the day. Yesterday is over; learn from it so you are better today and when tomorrow comes put into practice what you learned from today.
- Being objective and non-judgmental about yourself. When evaluating
something you have done in your life, look at what actually happened.
People at times tend to be their worst critic. Do not focus on calling yourself a jerk or a loser; you are not one. When something happens that was unfortunate or not what you intended the effort you put forth is always admirable. Even the world's best performers make mistakes, the difference is that they use their mistakes to their advantage and learn from them. You too have the power to learn from your least ideal performance and get right back up and try again.
- Using positive self-talk. Be positive in your thoughts about yourself. Build your self up, be kind to yourself and give yourself credit. Everyone would naturally like to do things ideally all the time but realistically you have done the best you can at that time.
- Knowing yourself. Distinguish between who you are – your real self – and
who you are striving to be – your ideal self. No one is perfect and no one will ever be, but striving to be your best is essential.
- Building a supportive environment. Surround yourself with people who are interested in you, who are supportive, who care about you, and who are honest with you at all times.
- Finding a highlight for each day. Take a moment each day and write down the highlights for that day. It could be anything from a fun interaction with a teammate or coach, a skill you performed well or just the fact that it was a beautiful sunny day. We spend a large portion of our time thinking about our mistakes or the things we could do better. We need to balance these thoughts out with positive thoughts or images. If we are not seeing a highlight in each day, in each practice or competition, then we are failing to acknowledge the good things within ourselves.
Imagery can be used to aid in concentration and problem solving or to mentally
rehearse a skill or task in the mind's eye (visualization). Mental rehearsal allows
you to run through an entire routine or performance in real time. Basketball players, for example, can imagine a foul shot prior to actually taking the shot. Their mental rehearsal is designed to create the feeling that accompanies the correct technique and could include:
- Stance or body position
- Breathing patterns
- Sport movement desired
- Cue words
Did you know that you can practice your imagery by trying the following
- Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed for 5-15 minutes.
- Close your eyes and take several deep breaths in order to relax.
- Create the feeling associated with a successful performance. See yourself
performing in the zone.
- Become aware of your surroundings; see who is there, who your opponents are; hear the sounds, and smell the smells.
- Now move back into yourself and create the feeling of a successful performance.
- Focus on the sensations in your body associated with an excellent
- Experience the pleasure and confidence you feel when you perform at this
- Embrace and recall these feelings of optimal performance. Think of a word or phrase that reminds you of this feeling and repeat it to yourself as you visualize your performance.
- Always remember that anytime you want you can conjure up these feelings of confidence and control just by repeating your word or phrase or by seeing your image.
- Schedule imagery practice regularly and systematically into, and outside
of, your training sessions and know that you can re-create these feelings
the next time you compete
Being too tense or too tight prior to and during competition can affect your
performance. You may find you have trouble focusing or performing some of the
skills. Relaxation techniques can calm you down and help remove tension so you
can control your actions and responses during practice and competition. There
are many pre-match relaxation strategies and techniques, and the strategy that
works best for each athlete will vary. To improve your ability to effectively
manage your nerves during competition and other stressful events you have to
practice these strategies as part of your daily routine. Then when you get to
competition you will find yourself more able to deal with your tension when it
Did you know that you can practice being relaxed by following these steps…
- Find a quiet area where you can comfortably sit or lie down for 10-15
- Assuming a comfortable position with your eyes closed
- Focus on your breathing; place you hands on your chest, feel the air
entering your lungs; concentrate on breathing to the bottom of your lungs
by expanding your stomach as you breathe in.
- Allow the feeling of relaxation and looseness to flow through your body
as though you are sinking into the chair or floor.
- Breathe in through either your mouth or your nose (whichever is more
comfortable) and exhale through the other.
- Develop a slow, deep, rhythmic breathing pattern.
- As you are breathing in and out you might try repeating "Breathe
in…Breathe out" to yourself
- After a short period of time has passed, try and slow your breathing
down. Hold and release each breathe as long as you are comfortable with
- You should be able to eventually reproduce this relaxation response in
competition situations as necessary (e.g., between shifts, rallies, ends, etc.)
Being able to focus and re-focus is a skill that encourages positive thoughts and
images. Through this skill you encourage yourself using positive affirmations.
Know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with a support
group that understands these aspects of you. At the end of the day if you keep
focus on your goal positive things will happen. If the unexpected happens you
will be able to stay focused.
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