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Tuesday Tips: 3 Steps to Perform Consistently in Games, No Matter the Level of your Opponent

Focus on the process, not the result.

Ines Bringel at the EUCF. Photo by Quentin Dupre La Tour of Focus Ultimate.

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How difficult is it for you to perform well when you are leading by five points or more, or playing against weaker opponents? Do you tend to feel less focused and lower the intensity?

When you make a major mistake while performing against a high-level opponent, which could potentially cost you the victory, the qualification, or the medal, do you quickly lose your concentration, your composure, or your confidence?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you may need to change the direction of your focus.

Here are three steps to perform consistently and confidently in competition, from both the athlete and coach perspective.

Step 1: What is the Expected Result?

As a player, answer the following question spontaneously: what do you want to accomplish in your next game? Once your answer has been formulated, take some time to analyze it: are your words and your answer more oriented towards the end result – the victory or the medal — or towards the quality of your performance — your technical execution or the implementation of your plan at a tactical level?

I want to win the game against… I want to enter the top 3… I want to qualify for Regionals… (outcome-oriented)

When (name of the handler) gets the disc, I want to synchronize my cuts on the break side… I want to stop 90% of the around throws with my mark… I want to adjust my positioning on defense to be able to play the disc whenever a huck goes up… (process-oriented)

The more you let go of the outcome to focus on the quality of your performance, the more your efforts will bear fruit, because they will be directed towards concrete and actionable goals.

As a coach, ask your players to tell you what they want to accomplish for their next game. Ask them to write it down. Some will talk to you about the quality of their performance, their technical execution, or their decision-making. Others will talk about opponents, winning, or statistics. When this is the case, you want to bring the attention of these players back to the little actions that lead to the result, so that they can detach their attention from the outcome.

Step 2: Raise the Bar…in the Right Place

As a player, the more you focus your attention on the details and the quality of your performance, the more you can allow yourself to become demanding – because these are aspects that you control and that you have trained for for weeks, even months or years. Therefore, you can afford to raise the bar and ask yourself for even greater concentration, higher quality of execution, and better decision-making.

This attitude will also help when facing opponents with less experience; in these situations, you will still want to give your best to be satisfied with your performance. When you focus only on the result, as soon as the victory is in your pocket, you no longer feel the need to make the efforts. It is then easy to relax, slow down, and lose your focus.

As a coach, you too want to direct your attention to the quality of performance and be more demanding about the small actions that will lead your players to the best possible result. Make sure to comment and intervene in that direction, to teach your players to do the same.

Step 3: Strengthen Your Focus

As a player, make a list of your process goals — goals related to the quality of your performance — and the small actions to be performed to give your best performance. Review your list and memorize your goals before your game.

Whenever your attention drifts towards the desire for victory or the result, remember your goals and refocus your attention on it. Over time, you will strengthen your concentration and you will manage to control the direction of your focus. After the game, review your goals, then find solutions and build an action plan for the goals that haven’t been met.

As a coach, before the game, ask your athletes to establish their process goals. Not everyone has developed this skill, and you may need to follow up with them so that they select more appropriate goals – either more realistic or more process-oriented, not outcome-oriented. Whenever the attention of your players or team drifts in a game, bring the focus back to the process. Recall the objectives and increase your level of requirement in relation to the quality of your players and team’s execution.

Mental Discipline: Are You Ready to Take the Challenge?

Focusing on the process pushes you to continue to make efforts regardless of the score. Imagine, for example, that you play against a less experienced opponent. You decided to pick the tallest and best striker of the team, and challenged yourself to neutralize that player and not allow them go deep for the whole game. If you stick with your goal and take it seriously – because you know that, ultimately, this will help you improve your defense and your focus, no matter the score or the level of your opponent — you will push yourself to make efforts to reach your goal.

If you tend to focus on the outcome, you may also have unrealistic expectations. It is possible that the result you would like to achieve asks you to give your best performance ever, letting no room for mistakes. If so, you may want to learn to set realistic goals based on your current abilities. Before your next game, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I do consistently during practices?
  • What have I been working on in the past few weeks, and where am I at right now in my pursuit of these goals?

Your answers will become your process goals for your next game or tournament. If, in practice, you complete 95% of your passes, you can make it your goal to achieve the same result in games – no more, no less. Since you know you can do it in practice, it increases your confidence level, freeing yourself from the pressure of being perfect and allowing you to perform with better concentration.

Surprisingly, realistic goals increase your chances of surpassing yourself and delivering your best performance, since they eliminate several sources of stress. If you tend to have high and perhaps unrealistic expectations, I challenge you to try this strategy. After your game, analyze the effects of your new goals on your mind and performance, you may be astonished at what you will find!

  1. Guylaine Girard
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    Guylaine Girard is the former head coach of the AUDL's Montreal Royal. She lives in Montreal and has been coaching for 25 years. You can download her free ebook "3 Steps to Get in the Zone", check out her blog, and follow her on Instagram.

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