“Once your muscles memorize the technique, the movement will run off automatically on demand.”
Most coaches and athletes have heard versions of this statement and often buy into the idea that lots of pre-determined repetitions and drills will lead to “muscle memory” that will run automatically once activated. An example of this would be a golfer’s over-reliance on block practice or repeating the same movement in the same place over and over again to build up “muscle memory”.
But is this really what happens when we execute any skill? Is skilful behaviour repetitive, rote, and automatic? Or is it adaptive, responsive, and intelligent?
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 feelin ways that will help you perform optimally.
Before we get into focus routines, let’s first define what focus is.
Focus is what you’re thinking about (attentional dimension) and feeling (emotional dimension) now, at the moment.
Most athletes have experienced how process goals and simple cues can help them focus under competitive pressure. Experienced coaches would understand the importance of communicating simple and effective cues to facilitate learning.
Since performance cues are critical to optimising learning and performance, let’s look at how we should decide on what cues to focus on, in what way are some cues more effective than others, and what the scientific literature has to say about this!