In the heat of competition, concentration and focus can easily waver - missed free throws can result in nervous, anxious thoughts about upcoming shots, or a non-called foul can lead to thoughts of retaliation instead of staying in the flow of the game. Anytime our focus is off of the game and our actions, performance can suffer.
One effective strategy to cope with concentration lapses is cue words. A cue word is a simple phrase athletes use to mentally refocus themselves. For example, "Explode now!" or "follow-through". Cue words are commonly used both to refocus after a negative event and to get the mind back on track after a distraction.
Similarly, athletes commonly experience anxiety prior to a major competition. Research from Self Help Magazine has identified the traits present in mental training regimens which can be used to relieve pre-competition stress, and they are as follows:
- Using a pre-competition routine (ex: the use of imagery prior to competition to create a positive vision of the competition and to see oneself attain pre-set goals).
- Using a competition plan (ex: the use of visualization to see oneself accomplish goals before the actual event takes place).
- Controlling distractions (ex: the use of relaxation techniques such as listening to music to avoid possible diversions caused by any number of people or uncontrollable circumstances).
- Feedback/evaluation (ex: the use of video review to critique past performance and understand how to prepare for and perform during the next competition).
For strategies on refocusing in competition and avoiding damaging anger and negative thoughts, click here.
For strategies avoiding pre-competition anxiety, click here.