When you’re driving, why can you still focus on the road while opening a bottle of water without looking at the bottle?

What about this…

If you were on the phone while driving and had to write down a number, how are you able to write down the number while focusing on the road without looking down at the paper?

The answer to what you’ve already begun to answer in your mind is what a performance psychology coach would call “the zone.”

The reason you can open that bottle or write that number down is because those actions are deep automatic skills that you have honed. The interaction between your skills and attention when it comes to the zone goes like this:

If you are skilled at something that you’re doing, your attention is most free to notice what is going on around you.


If your skill isn’t automatic yet, then it takes up some of the resources of your attention to make sure you’re doing the skill correctly – you have to pay attention to your motions when you don’t know a skill well.

Did you know that it is possible for an athlete to not see a teammate, even though the teammate is right in their line of sight, just because they are attending to what move their making? I have seen this many times in basketball teams. The more you have to use the resources of your attention to remember plays or because you haven’t created an automatic skill yet, the more susceptible you are to miss moments in a game and the less likely you are to be at your best or in your zone.

This is why all coaches asks for athletes to practice more and over-learn the skills needed to excel. In order to increase the chance of excelling, you need to create muscle memory so that your conscious mind does not have to bear that load when an opponent is coming to push your game plan into chaos.

The zone isn’t a place that you get into that makes you win but it is a place you can enter into that makes the skilled-you fully appear.

Now here is where it gets complicated and why athletes work with performance psychologists. Just because you are skilled at something does not mean that your mind won’t constantly second-guess your skill. And it definitely doesn’t mean that even after you make a mistake in a game (and you will) that distracting emotions and thoughts won’t flood into your present attention and take up some more of your attentional resources that should be focused on the next play.

If these are flooding your attention, how do you get them out and how do you help strengthen the skill that helps keep them out while performing? See what I’m getting at?! The person who is good at this is the person you’ve heard be characterized as: resilient, growth minded, mentally strong, etc.

The Core FOUR is the other game that is going on while you are playing. This is the “MENTAL GAME!” This is the game we ALL have to play when performing. How skilled are you at THIS game?

Observe & Respond is how we perform.
The Core FOUR is how we train.

© 2018, Ira Webbe Jr, all rights reserved


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