Focus, awareness and imagination...

I have just held an impromptu and unexpected coaching session – an old friend rang me to off-load some troubles, crying on shoulder stuff is fine of course, but far better to get somewhere and try to change something – to move with purpose.

Formerly they were a top sports-person, playing at near the highest level, so soon our conversation led me to remember some observations that I recorded when watching the summer games in London.


Archery – getting what we don’t want

The competitors play alongside each other, taking it in turns to fire their arrows. It is not unusual for a competitor to be influenced by their opponents previous shot – they see their opponent make a poor shot, scoring a 6 for example, which is some way from hitting centre and a poor shot for those at the highest level, the loss of 4 points from the 10 maximum can devastate a round, an archery expert in commentary observed that it is not unusual for a competitor to make a poor shot directly after his opponent has.  Having seen their opponent score a 6 the thought enters the head, “wow, that was a poor shot, I don’t want to do that, I mustn’t get a 6”, they then go onto fire a poor arrow of their own.
The focus has shifted to what they do not want – but because that is where the focus now lies, that is what they score.

Swimming – awareness - reaching your core objective

Swimmers, like other top athletes, will as part of their training “play” other sports and undertake other activities aimed at honing their skills.  Ian Thorpe, like some of the other Olympic competitors practiced ballet moves, working at the bar in the same way as a dancer might.
Ballet requires immense discipline and understanding of ones own body, the moves are extremely precise and require great fitness in order to be competent enough to express the moves smoothly and naturally.  This requires great awareness of what ones body needs to do in order to replicate those extremely precise and demanding moves.
Swimmers in particular feel the benefit through a raised awareness of their body movements, once in the pool they feel the benefit of having a greater awareness of their precise positioning and timing of the various strokes they need to perform.

Bolt - picture your success

It was amazing to watch Usain Bolt and his super-human achievements…we can all be superhuman…
Prior to one of his Gold medal-winning runs we were lucky enough to catch some glimpses of him as he prepared, at one stage I saw that he appeared to be thinking through the race, he was making small running motions with his hands, he then appeared to cross the line, a small nod to indicate he was imagining the duck at the line.  Then the bit that I liked the most: he made small gestures as if raising his hands in celebration and also nodding his head acknowledging the applause of the crowd, he seemed to be not only imagining the run, but also the result that he wanted, he ran a winning race in his thoughts before going on to win for real.
His focus was entirely on what he wanted to achieve, even to the point of imagining the adulation he would receive and the elation he would feel.

Move with purpose

The greatest sports people know that they need to drop their baggage – Lewis Hamilton spoke of it following a bad race in 2010 – he just had to put that result and the memory of it in a bag over his shoulder – and then carry on with his season.  Bad results are gone, history is written in indelible ink – while it can teach us things it is only useful as reflection point, not something to dwell over  - ask The 3 Questions about specific events:
  1. What worked
  2. What didn’t
  3. What needs to change
Life is the present – not the past.  Look at where you want to get to, understand where you are today, consider your options, move to action – on the way stop and reflect – ask The 3 Questions – make your adjustments.  Keep your sights on what you want to achieve, be honest about your failures – but use them to learn from.

  • Like an archer – focus on your goal.
  • Like a swimmer - maintain your awareness.
  • Like Bolt – picture your success.
 much love


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