Friday, October 12, 2012

Focus


“A soccer player should ignore anyone who says he or she can’t”

The Focus Secret

“Focus in soccer is vital. A player can be immensely talented, have great technique and yet her career may falter due to poor focus”

In soccer, it’s not about having more focus. It’s not about going into some deep trance state. In soccer it’s all about where you place your focus.

This was my first message to one of my former players, I wanted her to understand the good news that the best soccer players don’t have some Zen like focus that mere mortals cannot aspire to. They are simply skillful at directing their focus on the most appropriate things during a game. These are things that help them execute their technique and tactical game plan to the best of their ability.

When a soccer player switches off, to my mind she is not shutting down her focus. She is merely switching her focus to the wrong thing. So a defender might focus on the ball too much rather than focusing on both the ball and the man she is marking. This isn’t a lack of focus rather it is focus in the wrong direction. Similarly, a goalkeeper might focus on the crowd of players in the penalty area on a crossing ball while a more useful focus would be on the ball itself! A striker might focus on her marker rather than the space to move into, while a midfielder might watch play on the left side of the field so losing awareness of the run the right winger is making.

It’s not just things external to you, such as the ball or the opposition,  that can destroy performance focus. A soccer player may be too focused on her inner voice. She may be talking to herself about the mistake she made 5 minutes before or how long there is to go in the game. If she’s focused internally on either of these she won’t be focused on the tasks she has to execute in the game.

Performance focus is about directing your focus of attention correctly. To give her a deeper understanding, I asked her to complete a short exercise that is below.

What from the list below can you control? What can you only influence? And what can you NOT control at all? So to clarify: That’s control, influence and cannot control.
·         The weather
·         The result
·         The referee
·         Your thoughts
·         A mistake you’ve just made
·         Ball control
·         The condition of the field
·         You scoring a goal
·         How long there is to go in the game
·         Jumping high
·         Winning a header
·         Work rate
·         The opposition

“The myth of focus is the concept that more focus is required. It is placing your focus in the right direction that is a crucial mediator”

As I am sure some of these are easy to categorize while others may cause you to think a bit. So starting in reverse order let’s categorize them with what you cannot control.

Can’t Control
·         The weather
·         A mistake you’ve made
·         The condition of the field
·         How long there is to go in the game

It’s fairly evident that you can’t control those aspects. And yet how many soccer players place their focus on them?

Influence
·         The result
·         The referee
·         You scoring a goal
·         Winning a header
·         The opposition
Your performance focus must be better directed

Control
·         Your thoughts
·         Ball control
·         Jumping High
·         Work rate

So here are the things you can control from our original list. And these are perfect things to focus on. I have told my daughter that she needed to focus her mind on things that she could control at every given moment on the field. This would allow her to completely ignore what she couldn’t control! Look at her NOW!!!

“The time in the match is irrelevant. So are mistakes just made. Control the controlables.” I can control what I’m thinking in the 1st minute, the 40th minute and the 80th minute. I can control the actions I take and the way I react & respond at all times.”

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