Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Focus with Sports Psychologist Scott Goldman

I met Scott Goldman, a sports psychologist at the University of Arizona, a couple years ago in Big Sky, Montana. He shared a couple of his writings that he said I could post on my blog. If you have ever heard athletes talk about getting in the zone it all begins with the cues that they set for themselves. While we may not all have the luxury of a sports psychologist, these techniques can make all the difference when the pressure is on. They seem even more important with the amount of distractions competitive and every day athletes face on a daily basis. Here is part 1: Athletes are often told by their coaches “C’mon, Focus!” However, it is rarely described what focus means or how to do it. In any performance, there is a ton of information to consider. Some of these cues may be external such as the position of the outfield while others may be internal such as how fast your heart is beating. Another differentiation to consider is if the cues are broad such as scanning a football field or narrow such as preparing for a putt. Additionally, some of these cues may be relevant such as how much time is left in the game while other cues are irrelevant such as fans booing. Thus, the best definition of “focus” is being aware of everything that is going on while concentrating only on the key elements that will lead to a successful performance. • How well can I be completely “in the moment” while competing, yet be relaxed during breaks in the performance? • How well do I put aside distracting thoughts at practice or competition? • Are there times when I am so absorbed in what I am doing that I don’t notice what’s going on around me? Choose to Focus On What is Relevant • For example, class is the time to focus on school and practice is the time to focus on The ability to focus is a skill that can be trained like any other skill in sport. The following are some recommendations for improving your focus: sport. If you are thinking about your midterm at practice, it is time misspent. Similarly, if you are thinking about your sport while in class, it too is lost time. • Identify potential distracters and how you plan to cope with them. Similarly, it may be helpful to practice with distractions present. Practice Eye Control • Focus on simple cues of your sport such as the ball, the floor, a piece of equipment, etc. Try to ignore distractions such as crowd noise. • One technique to improve eye control is the “Spotlight” technique. The object is to create a beam of light from you to your desired goal. For example, a golfer may visualize a lighted trail from their ball to the hole. Employ Non-Judgmental Thinking • Don’t evaluate the play as good or bad. Instead, focus on what needs to get done to execute a better performance