Distraction is damaging to your performance because it interferes with your ability to focus and disrupts flow. It interferes with the attention that you need to apply to maintain good technique. This causes stress and consumes mental energy that is better applied elsewhere.
This section will teach you skills for overcoming distraction
Sources of Distraction
Distraction can come from a number of sources, both internal and external, such as:
- the presence of loved ones you want to impress
- family or relationship problems
- media - photographers, interviewers, cameras, heat form lights, etc.
- teammates and other competitors
- coaches who do not know when to keep quiet
- underperformance or unexpected high performance
- frustration at mistakes
- unjust criticism
- poor refereeing decisions
- changes in familiar patterns
You can prepare for and deal with all of these sources of distraction.
Coping with distraction
Coping with distractions and minor irritations is mainly a matter of attitude - you can either dwell on them and blow them up out of all proportion to their significance, or you can accept them and bypass them. If you waste mental energy fretting over a trivial problem, then this is energy that cannot be spent maintaining good technique (hence preserving physical energy). Over long events or competitions, this wastage of mental energy can seriously damage your performance.
What is worth remembering is that when you are distracted, lose concentration and make a mistake, you have not lost your skills. All you have lost is your focus.
The following points may help you to deal with distractions:
- Remember that although events may be beyond your control, your reactions to events are entirely controlled by you.
- Think positively - recognise petty irritations as such, and let them go
- Know you can perform well despite distraction
- Prepare for and expect more distraction at bigger events
- Expect other competitors to be more nervous at big events - use your ability to resist stress and distraction as a competitive advantage
- Develop a refocussing plan and practice using it when you are distracted
- Learn how to change bad moods to good moods
- Sleep and rest more before big events so that you have more mental energy to devote to distraction, mood and stress control.