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Every week, I get asked: what’s one drill I can use to focus better? My answer...there isn’t one. There’s lots of drills, it’s just a matter of finding what fits you best. The common themes to any focus drill are simple - identify something that needs your attention, effortfully focus on it, and return your attention to it when you become distracted. 

That last part is the most challenging one for athletes - returning attention to something fluidly after they become distracted. It requires a few skills, like being okay with the fact that you got distracted. It’s literally impossible to focus perfectly. Second, it requires you to have the wherewithal to quickly notice that your mind wandered away and return attention without getting upset about drifting off. Here’s an easy drill to reel focus in: 

  • Notice you’re distracted. 

  • Find what’s most important to your game in front of you.

  • Focus on it.

Sometimes that easy drill is easier said than done. You may find you need a bridge between the present moment and the distraction to help you ‘dial it in.’ For example:

  • Notice you’re distracted.

  • Quickly turn your attention to finding and feeling your center of gravity in your stance.

  • Turn attention to what’s most important to the game in front of you.

  • Focus on it.

That little bridge between a distraction and the present moment is helpful, if you’re having trouble focusing and getting your mind off distractions. You get your mind off of something distracting long enough - onto something controllable, always present, and tangible - that refocusing on what’s really important becomes easier. Experiment with this drill and see how it goes! If you like it or want to really integrate mental skills training into your game play, check out Win Your Warm Up. It’s an online mental skills training platform that teaches you the mental game, warm up drills, and then how to integrate mental training into your pregame warm-up routine to play focused and feel ready. 

Give these skills a try for a week and see what happens to both your game and how you feel while you play. When you can't focus, you can't play your best. For goalies serious about building advanced focus skills and preparing well, take a look at Win Your Warm Up (www.winyourwarmup.com). WYW is an online platform teaching you mental skills and physical drills to perfect your pregame prep. You play your best focused and ready! Enjoy playing more focused and feel free to comment if you've got questions or situations to troubleshoot!

Best,

 

Mike Stacey

mike@winyourwarmup.com

Co-Founder, Win Your Warm Up

Owner, Mike Stacey Mental Skills (MS2)

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Really informative and thought provoking.  I tell myself that my job as a goalie is to make the next save.  If I'm thinking about something that isn't making the next save, I am not thinking about doing my job and I am wasting processing capacity that I could be spending on trying to make the next save.  Human brains are not able to focus on only one thing for an entire hour, so I allow my mind to wander where it will whenever the puck is not in play.  When the puck is on the other side of half I keep my gaze fixed on it but I assume an attitude of restful alertness.  From whistle to whistle, I expect myself to think of nothing but the next save.  When I catch myself thinking about something else I'll let it go without blaming myself and refocus on making the next save.  If I'm thinking about blaming myself for failing at something, I'm not thinking about the next save, and the next save is the only thing that's important while the puck is in play.  Self-blame is best channeled into diligent practice habits, during a game, it is a wasteful luxury I have no time for. 

A goaltender needs a clean head and a free heart.  Avoid doing things in your personal life that cause you to feel guilty or undeserving.  Learn to mentally "set down" problems that you can't do anything about so that you can "pick them back up" again later, and set all your real life problems down while you are on the ice.

In practice, focus on the process.  In games, focus on the results.  At all times focus.

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      Damisch, L., Stoberock, B., & Mussweiler, T. (2010). Keep your fingers crossed!: How superstition improves performance. Psychological Science, 21, 1014-1020.
      Foster, D.J., & Weigand, D.A. (2006). The effect of removing superstitious behavior and introducing a pre-performance routine on basketball free-throw performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 18, 167-171.
      Phelps, A., Kulinna, P. (2015). Pre-performance routines followed by free throw shooting accuracy in secondary basketball players Biomedical Human Kinetics, 7, 171-176. 
      Vealey, R.S., Low, W., Pierce, S., & Quinones-Paredes, D. (2014). Choking in Sport: ACT on it! Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 5, 156-169.
       
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