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It's Time to Focus Again! Three Tips to Help Improve Performance!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #78 – Listen or watch HERE.

I recently took a quick trip to help a friend (also my long-time associate head coach) deliver a car to her dad wintering in Florida.

After driving in silence for at least 15 miles she says…

“Do you think the background in your videos is a bit much? I watch them and the content is great, but I can’t focus with all of that stuff behind you.”

Mind you, I am on this trip to keep her company, awake and safe…kind of me, right? 😊.

She went on to say that I probably don’t pay attention to it since when I review my videos, I am probably focused on watching myself and not what is going on behind me.

I reminded her that my normal background is a bookcase…where I put books…that I read…and not just one book 😊!

Nevertheless, we had a hysterical conversation surrounding her feelings and my videos.

Her comments came at a perfect time as we all switch our FOCUS away from family and holiday celebrations to practices, studies and competitions – and COVID, of course!

We use the word FOCUS to mean a lot of things. It can mean physically looking at something with more discernment. It also refers to our attention and where we choose to place it.

No matter how we define it, our focus – physically and mentally - makes a huge difference in our performance.

First, let’s tackle the FOCUS that Julie describes, the backgrounds and other things that draw our focus from the task at hand!

Distractions abound. How do we help our athletes eliminate distractions and dial in?

If your athletes are anything like Julie, it may benefit you to give instructions with as few distractions in the environment as possible.

We know our players are all dealing with internal distractions, so it is very important to eliminate external ones if we are trying to share important information.

Practice #1: Follow my late friend, Coach Donna Newberry’s advice. When you are speaking to your team, insist that every one of them is having eye contact with you.


Don’t start talking until they are all looking. And if someone looks away or down, stop talking until they rejoin you (trust me, they really will be “rejoining” you from wherever their focus wandered 😊).

This practice ensures everyone is looking at YOU and your message…not people walking by or whatever may be going on around you.

Second, and maybe most importantly, if your athletes are looking at you, they are less likely to be mind-wandering and listening to their inner voices which are the most distracting things they face!

One more added benefit to this practice is that when everyone is looking at you, they are looking up!

Studies show that assertiveness and aggressiveness are much higher when our bodies are positioned with our chins up and we are taking up more space. Those who have their eyes and heads down are less likely to speak up, set up or act.

Think about kids sitting around all hunched over their phones. There can be no worse posture for taking action!

The more we ask our athletes to BE BIG and outside of their own heads and inner thoughts, the more we will get out of them!

Practice #2: After you give your instructions, ask each of your athletes to DELIBERATELY REHEARSE your directions.

What does this mean? You have heard of “deliberate practice” often defined as systematic practice with focused attention to improve performance.

This is similar, but it comes BEFORE the systematic practice begins.

We lose information in about 30 seconds if we do not rehearse it in some way. Think about asking someone for directions, saying thank you and walking away with no idea when to turn left!

Deliberate rehearsal is as simple as asking your athletes to repeat what you said in one of two ways. You can have them say it out loud as a group or individually. Since our words turn into pictures, this helps them “see” what you are explaining.

But even better yet, ask them to rehearse it in their minds by visualizing what the steps or actions will look like when they or their teammates put them into practice.

Hopefully, this will avoid the 5th person in line for the drill asking, “what am I supposed to do?”

Practice #3: “Pay attention!” A study completed at one of our military academies tracked the focus and progress of a group of cadets on a specific task. The group that was reminded to “pay attention” every 15 minutes, completed the task more effectively and efficiently than the groups that received no “attention” prompts.

Reading this study made me feel a little better. I say “pay attention” a few (hundred) times during homework sessions with my not-so-focused 9-year-old!

No matter who we are or what we are doing, we all need help staying focused. Heck, I open a web browser and forget what I was going to “search up” as my son says!

These three tips can be helpful as your athletes return to classes, practices and competitions and may save you some frustration as you implement your well-thought-out practice plans and instruction!

I hope Julie reads this tip so she can figure out how to get more out of my videos!

Maybe she can focus on all my wrinkles and remind me of how old I look next time. At least this will shift her focus to me and not my background 😊! I hope she can hear me over my crows feet 😊!

Have a focused and wonderful week!


P.S. If you find your team on a COVID pause, reach out! I would love to be part of your quarantine programming and share a few ways they can turn that adversity into an advantage!

Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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