Being put off by the scoreline or your competitor is a challenge for sports people. Winning isn't just about you doing well it also involves stopping the other side scoring or at least being better than them. So whether it is scoring more goals, more points, less strokes, your competitors performance affects the result and your chance of winning.
So how do you concentrate on your own performance? The answer is to stay in the present or as some coaches describe it focus on the process.
Why staying in the present stops negative thoughts
Staying in the present or the process of the game is used by sports psychologist to help concentrate and block out anxiety. By staying in the present you can focus on yourself and what you have to do : not be put off by what other people have just done and what the score is.
If you practise this each time you play you will become mentally stronger and a winner. The aim is to be so self absorbed that other people or score-lines can't distract you. For this is what they are - simple distractions. We know you need to ignore distractions to give your best performance.
When we are totally immersed in the present, fears and distractions can't take hold. It is when we drift into the future and the 'what ifs' start. I call them the 'what ifs' because they are at the root of all confidence failures.. The 'what ifs' go along these lines. 'What if I play badly.... make a fool of myself ......fluff this shot........let the team down.... The 'what ifs' take you out of the present in a negative way. They are putting you into a future you don't want to go to.
The same is true of venturing into the negative past. The nagging thoughts become 'oh no this happened last time' accompanied by a sinking feeling. This is the point that your mental state becomes confused and vulnerable.
Be aware of what is happening
The first step to improve is to be aware of what is happening to you. When you get that sinking feeling and you start to have a wobble, bring your focus back to what you have to do. This will be your next shot - strike - kick - movement - stroke - whatever it is get right back and involved in your performance keeping it simple.
Focus on what you can control : not on what you can't
Take Steven Covey's advice in '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' and stop wasting time on things you can't control and focus instead on things that are within your control. You will not only be more successful but also far less stressed. Are you worrying about things that you can't control eg selection, competitors, competition conditions? If so then you will feel helpless and out of sorts. When you concentrate on what you can control, you will make progress and feel one hundred percent better.
You don't have complete control over how well the other side play, or on the score line. Who is to say they won't have an unusually brilliant day. But what you can control is your own performance, your preparation and your game strategy. Most importantly you can control how you mentally react in the game. Make sure you give yourself the best chance by preparing well, getting into a positive mental state and have a game plan / strategy which you can turn to support your best performance.
The Don't Look at the Scoreboard Principle
Coaches from the legendary Vince Lombardi to rugby world cup winning Sir Clive Woodward have used the above .This rule keeps the players in the present and removes thoughts of the score and 'what ifs' anxiety. It's aim is to completely ignore what has gone on in the past and get the mindset that players have when starting the game : the 0-0 scoreline and full energy reserves.
Sir Clive Woodward had strict a half time routine for his players. They would talk about the score-line as little as possible (other than to relate it to second half tactics) and they would also put on a clean shirt. The reason for the new shirt was to get into the 'starting the game' mindset. Clean shirts represent the freshness and energy you have when starting the game. His players initially poo pooed the idea because they hadn't done it before. But it proved so successful that other teams started copying it.
The Zone only happens in the present
A major reason for staying in the present is that the zone, the optimum mental state that sports people aspire to only happens in the present. It is not what happened 2 minutes ago or 2 minutes ahead. It is all about the now.
So remember at all times : if you want to give your best performance, stay in the present and don't look at the scoreboard. The scoreboard will look after itself. Once the final whistle is blown, it's just a memorial after all.
ABOUT THE WRITER
My name is Jenny Truman and I am a mental skills performance coach. I coach sports people at all levels from amateur to professional. To find out more about me please visit www.jtperformancecoaching.co.uk . If you would like help with any of the issues in this article you can contact me on 07870 705007 or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org.