Sport Psychology Basics: Knowing What You Control

Sport Psychology Basics: Knowing What You Control

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Sport Psychology Basics: Knowing What You Control
Photo credit to Dr. Stewart Cotterill

~Excellence is a Choice. Choose to Excel

It is easy to see why the feeling of stress gets ramped up when trying to play your own game and also trying to manage these outside forces. Remember the saying: “Don’t sweat the small stuff”? It’s true! This mantra is important and understanding this can help you with selective attention and concentration.

Examples of Things Athletes Do NOT Control

These are some of the things I hear from athletes in my office:

  1. Worrying about what others think. For example, many athletes worry about what their coach thinks way too much. “I watch his face when I do something just to make sure I’m doing okay.” Or, “my teammate is starting to play better than me. I keep wondering what will happen to my playing time and what others think of me.”
  2. Focusing too much on the outcome and not focusing on the moment. This is easy to do because all athletes want to run the fastest, score the most points, or have a great golf match. But if the only focus is the end goal then as soon as something disrupts these most athletes begin to panic and don’t know what to focus on in order to recover.
  3. Playing scared and trying not to make mistakes. Nothing hurts good fluid play more than seeking to have it all unfold perfectly. Winning isn’t always pretty.  But athletes who know the game can be messy but have the grit to get the job done to understand that there really is not the place of perfection in sports.

These are all reasonable thoughts. But if you really break them down and reflect on the meaning, the deeper truth is that worrying about what others think does nothing to improve one’s game. If you worried about what your coach thinks it actually takes your focus away on your actual play. You start to do the opposite of what you really want. The truth is you want to dribble well, make a great pass, or play good defense. How do you put your focus on this?

Athletes: Know What You Control 

Build your awareness about what you control by following the ABC Model. What do you control? You control these ABC’s:
1 Attitude: perspective, focus, thoughts
2.Behavior: readiness, pre-competition routines, relaxation, your skills, like some techniques

  1. Commitment: heart, desire, determination and recovery following mistakes

~Commitment is a key ingredient for success in ANYTHING.

Consider doing these exercises to help yourself practice and know where to put your focus when you compete.
1. Do you have a vision of what you want to pursue or accomplish? By vision, I mean do you have one or two goals for each competition that you can really work on and these should be more process goals, like quick feet in hockey, good arm extension in swimming etc. Describe in writing what you will focus on in your next competition.
2. Do you have clear a few ways to talk to yourself to bring yourself back to the moment if you start worrying about what others think?
3. Have you made a commitment to quality training? How would you improve this for yourself?
4. Are you committed to taking responsibility for what you control and letting the other stuff go? Describe on paper and for yourself what seems to hook you or pull your attention away from what matters most?
5. Can you commit to a pre-competition routine?
If you can begin to answer these questions and act accordingly you will move in the direction of managing the “controllable” and letting other concerns go. Use the ABC model to guide you each day in practice and when you compete.
Focusing more on what you control is a skill, kind of like athletic skills we get better at the more we practice. So make some notes prior to practice and competing to remind yourself where you will put your focus when it wonders. You will get better at remembering to shift and that is the key!

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