“When you play your best, your focus is always OUTWARD, on the action as it unfolds in front of you, moment by moment…
When you struggle or choke, your focus is always INWARD on your thinking, (a mistake, what you should’ve done, what others will think, the negative consequences, etc.)
To consistently play your best when it counts the most, you have to learn to immediately switch your focus away from THINKING (inward) and back to what you are DOING (outward) in the moment. Every time thoughts pop up and try to distract you with an inner focus, simply notice them and then quickly get your concentration back outside in the action as it unfolds!”
Dr. Alan Goldberg did a great job of putting this concept into words over on his Facebook page. Especially in a game as fast-moving as ultimate, players have to constantly be changing their focus in order to keep up with what’s going on.
We’ve all had that moment in a game where we miss a throw, lose our coverage, or mix up the force. The key is to take on the next moment and approach it with a fresh mind. As Dr. Goldberg says, inner focus can only distract us when we are in the middle of a game. We can train ourselves to return our focus to the outward action happening in front of us.
Lou Burress talked about the concept of the two selves, the “Thinking/Word Mind” and the “Doing Mind,” in the context of Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis. In Lou’s words:
“There are two essential steps in this process: quieting the Word Mind and trusting the Doing Mind. These steps aren’t necessarily sequential because the trusting of the Doing Mind is often a key step in getting the Word Mind to be quiet.”
The key to Lou’s quote is the element of trust that exists between the two minds. If the “Word Mind” doesn’t trust the “Doing Mind” to get the job done, our default is to return to overthinking and overanalyzing. This speaks directly to Dr. Goldberg’s assertion that you have to immediately switch your focus when you realize that you are starting to think too much.
How do we train this? That’s a tough one.
One of the best strategies for engaging the “Doing Mind” and silencing the “Thinking/Word Mind” is to use practices as mental training sessions. While you’re learning and training specific skills, engage your “Thinking Mind” to process what you are being taught and translate it into actions. Then, when you’re in scrimmages focus on only your “Doing Mind,” to see those actions happening outwardly. Once a game or practice is over, re-engage your “Thinking Mind” to assess how your actions can change. This process will help you build trust between the two. Your “Thinking Mind” can rely on your “Doing Mind” to implement the actions that were solidified in the teaching process, and you’ll excel at focusing outwards.