Tips for Playing in the Zone
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.
Playing in the zone and statistics
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.
Playing in the zone tips
- Short-term memory loss – how quickly players can one get the last play out of their head, whether it was a good or bad one, is the first step to staying in the moment
- Long-term memory loss – the ability to leave the past behind, realizing this is a new day and past results have no bearing on this day and with the next play
- Leaving expectations behind – expectations from self or others promote self-pressure, which leads to tension and the inability to focus. Realizing they must remain confident that they can repeat the fundamentals under any circumstances is the key to performance under pressure
- Keeping ones senses – the ability to breathe normally, tune out the noise that has no meaning to the play, see the action in slow motion, separates those, who can stay in the moment and those who lose control
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.