Below are some common scenarios that happen to athletes at times during competition, challenging their current mindset and preparation:
Imagine that you've just been competing to the best of you efforts on this particular evening, you came in prepared, put the time in, and suddenly an opponent gets in your face: taunting, cursing, or just "playing dirty". The officials don't notice this, and before you know it, your rhythm is disturbed. You feel the energy balance shifting away from the positive you came into play with, what do you do now?
You are on pace for a career or personal best performance. Suddenly, the official makes a call you consider unjust; even worse, it is directed towards you. A few minutes later, it happens again, perhaps this time you really did commit the violation. A sense of frustration begins to set in.
You are in the middle of a tough track workout and begin to feel fatigued. Your thoughts turn from focusing on reference points to the deep burn in your muscles, inherently increasing the workload further.
These are the cliche "make or break" moments we experience as athletes. Maintaining focus is paramount in gaining the edge over the competition, but what can be done when our focus is challenged or broken? How do we get back in rhythm?
The strategies to be discussed are not one-size-fits-all. However, with practice, patience, and a little experimentation with what works for you, a powerful tool can be added to your game.
Strategies to try out include:
- Blinking your eyes rapidly ten times. This sends a "recalibration" signal of sorts to the brain.
- Shift focus to your breath, temporarily whether you're running, batting, or using any other movement or technique. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which plays a calming role in the body's physiological processes.
- Practice your mantra, as seen in previous posts, such as "power", "strength", or "focus".
- Reflect back on a successful experience, especially one from the same competition.
- this has been shown to reinforce self-confidence and get athletes back on track.
- Talk briefly or be near a teammate or coach who is a positive model.
- Choose a specific thing or individual and focus on that object, if it does not distract from aspects of the game (note: avoid the scoreboard or time clock).