Playing in the zone, a state of mind that allows complete focus on the present, is not as easy as just having experience. Having been there before is not always an advantage, as previous experience may hurt as much as help. That is the reason great players may choke and the reason a total unknown plays great on the big stage. Experience may be an advantage, as that is not the first time in the same nerve-racking situation, but when that experience did not produce the desired results, self-doubt arises, leaving experience a negative factor.
"I'll play my best if I'm focused on the task at hand, not on the results," was great golfer Jim Furyk's response when asked about his upcoming final round play. The question arose because of his previous shaky final round play, even though he is a player with great experience.
Even the greats have to remind themselves continually how important "staying in the moment" and "playing in the zone" are, in order to have success. Being great does not mean it just happens, as human nature leads to self-doubt and expectations lead to relying on statistics and results, which are most often, uncontrollable. For example, in baseball, players can only control hitting the ball hard and in a certain direction, but they cannot control a player making the catch or not.
It is easy for athletes to get caught up on statistics and results, leading to less than stellar focus. Most sports are statistically oriented for determining success. However, when players set their goals on statistics, it sets their focus on the wrong thing. "If I get two hits today, my average will raise so many points, and I have done my job" is the pre-game thought process and takes away from the task at hand, of taking good swings on good pitches, in all situations, which is under their control.
Athletes who keep their goals on staying in the moment and with the task at hand, rather than the results of daily statistics, prosper the most in the end. That focus is harder than one thinks, because as expectations and pressure mount, they take away the ability to stay in the moment. Players, who best stay in the moment and deal only with the things they control, usually perform to their capabilities, and feel satisfied with any outcome. Following are some of the keys to playing in the zone, especially in the tensest moments.
Of course, having a deep seated confidence in one self and an optimistic attitude that things work out for the best are never a bad thing, when the pressure is greatest, and better than the alternative of thinking what will go wrong this time. . Finally, playing in the moment requires "poise" a state of balance, which you can read about by clicking on the poise.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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