What do athletes focus on in training?

One of the secrets of training is for the athletes to understand that what the coach is asking them to do, e.g., keep a certain pace/tempo in cyclic sports or execute a certain pattern in a tactical one is not the goal to focus on. In fact, the athletes’ goal is to focus on what to do to achieve that result.

Give it a try. Ask young athletes what they focus on when their coach gives them a drill to perform and record his or her response.

The coach gives the goal (to improve endurance and management of one’s athletic action in stressful situations) and explains that this is done through a certain activity (this is the outcome). The athletes must focus on what he or she must do to achieve that outcome that will thus enable him or her to achieve the goal stated before the work begins.

We psychologists along with coaches must play the role of facilitators of these forms of thinking that underlie any kind of improvement.

At this level, it is likely that the athletes will put their best effort into the drills. That is not the issue, the question is instead: are they engaging in doing what it takes to meet the demand or are they certainly active but focused on the wrong things?

Let us also train ourselves as psychologists to pick up on these differences during practice.

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