Updated: Oct 19, 2021
STAY AWAY FROM HAVING AN OUTCOME FOCUS!
The BIGGEST mental trap that athletes, coaches, and parents fall into that generates performance-disrupting stress for the athlete and leads to choking and other performance problems is going into a performance and carrying a future or outcome focus!
Athletes who think and worry about the "what if's," the "I have to's, "I need to's," and "I've got to's" will most often get too nervous to do their best. As a result, they will perform tentatively, fearful of making mistakes or losing! These athletes will rationalize these thoughts by thinking that they are “preparing” for the unknown. These outcome-based thoughts only lead the athlete to a negative emotional state which decreases their level of performance.
Coaches who coach the outcome, who stress the importance of winning, beating a certain opponent, achieving a particular time and who get angry when their athletes lose or make mistakes, will set their players up to have this same future focus and, as a result, get too nervous to perform their best! These coaches rationalize by thinking that it is their job to win games. Experienced and developmentally-focused coaches know that the way to win games is to focus on the controllables, not the outcomes.
Parents who react with anger at, frustration with and/or disappointment in their child because of his/her results will similarly make their kids overly anxious for their next performance and inadvertently set them up to struggle and fail! These parents rationalize these thoughts by saying positive outcomes will get their children “noticed.” These parents have their attention on the wrong place. Players will get noticed by performing their best at the controllables (actions, thoughts, and emotions). Coaches at the highest levels of sport understand that these controllable skills are more important than the results at the lower levels.
THE task for ALL involved is to help the athlete stay focused on what they CAN control, in the moment and flow of the performance.
That means athletes need to learn to concentrate in the NOW, on what THEY are doing, thinking, and feeling. These will help them perform at their best. Coaches need to CALMLY coach the process and exhibit trust that it will lead to success on the field. Parents need to relax, sit back, and enjoy watching their child doing something that they love! They need to allow their child to compete with the inner security that their parents' love and acceptance is NEVER at stake here, and NEVER attached to the competition's result!