A common frustration I hear from athletes and coaches is when players are “playing tight”, which means they aren’t playing to the level of their full potential. Can you identify? Do you ever feel that something gets in your way of being able to perform the way you know you can?
One way to loosen up your play and performance is to make sure your focus is in the right time zone. Sometimes it can be easy for athletes to get stuck thinking about what just happened, or become worried about what will happen at the end of the game. However, the only thing that truly matters is what is happening in the present, here, right now, as it is unfolding. When athletes direct their focus in the present, and are performing with moment to moment awareness, play gets loosened up for several reasons. First, the likelihood of being able to notice important information in the competition situation is increased, which makes it more likely to react quicker, and play more aggressively. Second, without being concerned about the past or the future, there is more attentional resources for the current task, increasing ability to take risks and see possibilities for challenging your opponents. Finally, when focusing in the present, it is easier to effectively respond to physical and emotional cues, making necessary adjustments that keep execution as consistent as possible. When athletes describe playing in the moment, they often say that performance feels easier and more fun. That sounds a lot better than playing tight, right?
With INtention- create more awareness about when your focus is by reflecting on these questions: How often is your focus in the present? When you are performing, do you tend to think about something that happened in the past, even if it just happened? How long do you continue to think about mistakes or bad calls? Do you find that you tend to wonder about the future‐ asking your self what if you lose or what if you don’t make this next shot? You might even be thinking positive thoughts about the future‐ maybe how you will celebrate your performance, or who you will talk to after the game. How does being focused in the past or the future take away from your intensity, execution, or enjoyment of your performance?