Using a Routine to Get Focused During a Game

You need to be focused during games

No matter what sport you play, focus is a major factor to your success.

If you lack focus, or struggle with getting yourself focused, your performance level will drop. However, developing strong focus will increase your chances of success.

As a mental performance coach, I’ve worked with many athletes on building sports focus. Through this work, I’ve come to realize the true power of a routine.

And so, in this article, you will learn why routines play such a large role in sports focus, and how you can leverage a routine to increase your focus during games.

Why Focus is Important During Games

When you’re saying you’re really focusing on something, what’s going on? Well, you’re probably thinking about whatever you’re focused on and you’re giving it your full attention.

In essence, your mind is consumed with whatever you’re focused on.

That’s great when your attention is centered in the present and you’re focused on this pitch, this shot, or this play. But it can be detrimental if you’re focused on something you don’t necessarily want to be focused on.

For the most part, athletes know why they need to be focused during games — being focused helps you play better!

But why?

Well, when we dig a little deeper, there are two main reasons why being focused is important during games: the positive impact of being focused and the negative impact of losing focus.

The Positive Impact of Focus

Your energy flows where your attention goes…have you ever heard that before?

That phrase encompasses both the positive and negative impact focus can have on you during a game. But I really think it does a great job at helping to see how powerful good focus can be.

When you are fully focused in the present moment, on whatever you’re doing, you are going to be giving more energy and effort to the action.

I was talking with a golfer the other day who was talking about how this concept plays out for him during tournaments.

Being fully focused on shots and committing his attention to them makes a significant difference in how well he hits the shot.

The same is true no matter what sport you play.

When you learn how to control your focus, you will give more attention to whatever it is you’re doing. And that increased attention means more energy and effort are given, resulting in an increased chance of success.

The Negative Impact of Focus

Now let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t have good focus. Or, as I should say, what happens when you have poor control over your focus.

Your focus as an athlete is directly tied to your thoughts. So in reality, you’re always focused (or thinking) about something…it just may not be what you want to be focused on.

This is where we see focus have a negative impact on your performance.

There are three main mental blocks that stem from poor focus: perfectionism, fear of failure, and sports performance anxiety.

All of these are caused by focusing too much on the outcome.

When you think about how a shot is going to go or how much you don’t want to make a mistake on this play, that causes you to grow fearful and anxious, and can lead you to demand perfection of yourself, which only holds you back.

So when we think about the importance of focus, it involves the ways strong focus will increase your performance, but also the mental blocks that form when you have poor focus.

How Routines Increase Your Focus During a Game

Knowing the importance of being focused during a game, your aim should be to make sure you are as focused as you can be on a consistent basis.

It is the consistency of focus that will lead to more consistent performances. Which means you need a way to instill a high level of focus repeatedly.

Now, there are many different tools you can use to improve your focus as an athlete, and we’ll talk a little more about them in a bit. But it’s the way these tools are applied that truly makes a difference during a game.

You want to create routines for yourself during games. These routines need to be a combination of a pregame routine, along with pre shot/pre play routines you use throughout the competition.

The reason routines are so important when it comes to your focus is because they allow you to deliberately get into the right mindset before the game and before each shot/play.

You are taking this idea of being focused and making it something you can control by using a routine to get you as focused as you need to be.

Another positive aspect of using routines has to do with feeling comfortable.

An athlete I was working with recently paired confidence with feeling comfortable. The more comfortable he felt for a shot, the more confident he was.

Likewise, if he wasn’t comfortable with the shot he doubted himself.

This happens because you feel familiar with the activity. And familiarity will increase the trust you have in yourself. But when you’re not comfortable, there is a lot more uncertainty, making doubting yourself much easier.

Routines will help make feeling comfortable something you can control, since you are repeating a specific routine before each shot, play, or game in general. This means you are approaching the competition in a familiar way.

Creating Your Own Routines to Increase Focus During Games

The first routine you need to put in place is a pre game routine.

Right now, you likely have a set routine you use in terms of warming up and getting your body ready to compete. But what about your mind? Do you have a clear strategy you’re using to get your mind right for the game?

That’s the kind of pregame routine I’m referring to: a mental pregame routine to instill your peak performance mindset.

When you’re creating your pregame routine, there are a few main mental training tools you can use:

  • Self-Talk
  • Mental Rehearsal
  • Mindfulness
  • Performance Objectives
  • Breath Work

Don’t feel like you need to use all of these tools. The goal is to create a simple, yet effective routine you will follow on a consistent basis.

Here’s an article that goes into more detail on helping you create a pregame routine.

The next routine you create will be specific to your sport. This will be a pre shot/pre play routine.

This will look quite different, depending on your sport and position.

For baseball and softball players, think about your pre at bat routine. How can you use the time you have from when you’re in the hole until you step up to the plate to get yourself into a nice and focused mindset?

For golfers, this involves your pre shot routine. The time from when you’re gathering information about the shot until you strike the ball.

For basketball players, you should have a pre shot routine for the free throw line, and then also a pre play routine, before you get onto the court if you’re sitting on the bench.

That leads into sports where there isn’t set time to go through a routine (like with golf, hitting in baseball or softball, or shooting a free throw).

Think about football, for example. While there isn’t as much time to go through a routine as there is in golf, you still need to have a little routine you do before each play to make sure you are as focused as you can be.

With these routines, you can use many of the same tools you use in your pre game routine, just on a much smaller scale.

You can also use phrases you say to yourself before each play or shot — that counts as a routine since it’s something you do before every play.

The idea of a pre play routine is to get yourself into a focused state on a consistent basis, knowing that the more focused you are, the better your chances are of performing well.

Final Thoughts

Being focused during a game means you are giving more energy to what you’re doing. And the more energy you give to the present moment, the greater the likelihood you’ll play well.

Strong focus during games is also important because of the negative impact poor focus has on you, such as leading to perfectionism, fear of failure, and performance anxiety.

Knowing the importance of focus, you want to be sure you are getting yourself as focused as you can be before each game and specifically before each play/shot.

To instill this consistent focus, you want to create routines for yourself. These will help you feel more comfortable during games, and get you into the best mindset you need to be in to compete.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

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