It happens to the best of us, the elite and professional athletes as well as all of us amateur and recreational performers. Your “normal,” consistently decent level of performance is suddenly hijacked by a slump, fear or block. For no apparent reason, you can’t seem to buy a hit, make a shot, go backwards on beam or move the way that you used to and know you’re fully capable of.
As your athletic performance does a nose dive, so too does your level of self-confidence. You’re flooded with self-doubts and find yourself over-thinking everything! While slumps, fears and blocks are a regular and common part of ALL sports, there are some things that you can do as an athlete, coach or parent to help lessen their negative effect! Today we will focus on how to handle these challenges as an athlete.
What can YOU do as an ATHLETE?
Probably one of the biggest and most common mental mistakes made by athletes which fuel their slumps and blocks is to lose control of their focus of concentration. If I have had several bad performances in a row, then I am most likely going to find my concentration “TIME TRAVELING” as I go into this next performance. That is, I am likely to think about how badly I’ve been doing (the past), and then I’m going to worry, “what if IT happens again? (the future).
When my thoughts and focus take a trip down memory lane and revisit past poor performances, I will quickly undercut my self-confidence and increase my anxiety level as I approach the next performance. When my focus jumps ahead to the future and I start worrying about another bad outcome, I’m going to make myself even more anxious. This anxiety translates into tight muscles, faster and shallower breathing and even lower self-confidence. It will also insure that when the action does start, my concentration will be distracted from the task at hand in the moment by moment flow of the competition, guaranteeing another sub-par, frustrating performance!
You correct this as an athlete by learning to keep your focus of concentration and your thoughts in the “NOW.” You have to discipline yourself to quickly let go of your past poor outings and to stay away from the outcome, and instead concentrate on what is in front of you, RIGHT NOW! Controlling your focus in this way is much easier said than done and you will find your concentration continually wandering. This is NORMAL! When this does happen, try to stay relaxed and quickly return your focus to the NOW, over and over again, as many times as you drift away.
The slump-busting skill of concentration involves immediately becoming aware whenever your focus “time travels” back to the past or ahead to the future and then just as quickly returning your focus to the NOW. What will always hurt you as an athlete and what will maintain your performance slump or block is allowing your focus to drift and NOT returning it quickly to the proper focus. It’s the break in concentration that we don’t catch that ultimately hurts us and prolongs our performance problems!
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