Top Performance Demands World-Class Focus
Top athletes all share one successful mental skill that separates them from the rest of the field, a highly skilled ability to control and shift their focus from internal to external and from external to internal during the right moments. At SPMI, athletes are taught how to properly shift their focus as well as how to maximize each type of focus for all moments of performance. Internal focus is based on the athlete’s cognitions or thoughts. Internal focus is best used by the athlete when learning a new skill or dealing with a new discovery. This is where their awareness skills need to be heightened so that they do not forget what to do in each moment.
When to focus internally?
In sports we know that athletes mostly use internal focus in moments of decision making or strategizing. Here, athletes need to problem solve effectively or make conscious adjustments. Failure to do so relates to repeating the same mistake and ultimately underperforming.
When to focus externally?
External focus relates to an athlete’s ability to focus on outside stimuli such as a ball or a target. During these moments athletes do not engage in thinking but rather utilize their muscle memory or years of training to take over and occur similar to an autopilot. When working with athletes I often use the example of learning how to write your name as a child. In the beginning children often struggle and need to use a high level of internal focus in order to succeed at the task. However, as the child practices writing their name multiple times, the writing then becomes more automatic and eventually the child is only using their eyes to focus on the target (the lines of the paper). The same principle can be applied to learning a new language or riding a bike.