As an athlete, you would have experienced how negative self-talk and emotions can jeopardise your focus and performance. While it is difficult to break away from these distractions entirely, there are practices that can help you manage them. One of these practices is to make use of routines to create order in your environment. This will help you to think and feel in ways that will help you perform optimally.
Focus is what you’re thinking about (attentional dimension) and feeling (emotional dimension) now, at the moment.
Developing focus is a process of self-discovery and it would be necessary for you to spend some time reflecting on both events where you struggled with focus and those where you were fully committed to the tasks at hand. This awareness will help you integrate what you want to think about and how you want to feel with your focus routines.
What are Focus Routines?
These are detailed plans setting out when and how you will work on all that you need to think about and feel to perform well. These are used before (e.g., pre-game/fight routines) and during (pre-shot and between rounds/holes routines) competitions.
Here’s a simplified example of a pre-fight routine from a jujitsu athlete that I am working with: General warm-up, physical & mental rehearsal of game plan & coping with pressure situations, positive self-talk, rhythmic breathing, and trust.
Here’s Tiger Wood’s Pre-shot Routine as described by Andre R. Pillow, PGA.
Woods also has a 10-steps rule to manage his frustrations after making a bad shot. He will allow himself to be frustrated but makes sure to let go of the shot after counting out 10 steps down the fairway. It is also common for athletes from other sports to use routines to refocus during referee stoppages and between rounds.
Here are examples of focus routines from other sports
• Swimming (on the blocks): Having a plan for the race, using positive self-talk, visualizing the plan, and feeling yourself swim with effortless speed.
• Soccer corner kick: Having a plan, visualizing the plan, setting up for the kick, looking at your target, focusing on your target, and trusting your kick.
• Tennis serve: Choosing the type of serve, picking a location, visualizing the serve, setting up and bouncing the ball, the ball toss, and trusting your swing.
Focus routines are a series of steps leading up to execution. Each of these purposeful and precise steps improves your attention control because it absorbs your attention and directs your mind away from incessant self-talk and distractions.
“ Routines are one of the few things that a player can be in control of in golf. Focus on having consistent routines, and let the outcome happen by itself.“Justin Kuk, National Golfer
What are your focus routines? What’s the purpose of every step? Spend some time reflecting and writing down your focus routines.
Last but not least, you can’t wait until competition to use your routines, practicing your focus routines has to be integrated with purposeful practice. Otherwise, you may end up either rushing through or taking too long to perform your pre-shot routine when you are under competitive pressure. This will disrupt your concentration and performance.
I will be happy to have a chat with you should you need some support with this!