Written by Dr. Scott Silverman Thursday, 28 January 2010 12:21
Wouldn't it be nice if there were a special place where every team or player was a winner? In this fantasy world, scores would be meaningless since every player and team would be deemed champion. Obviously, sport does not only consist of winners. For example, in Tennis every player loses except the tournament winner. On the other hand, it is the risk of losing that makes sport exciting. The challenge and uncertainty in sport provides much of the thrill and an obsession with winning can help avoid defeat.
Athletes that are task oriented often display high intrinsic motivation, produce maximum effort, and sustain longer concentration across a number of performance situations. Players emphasizing performance goals (e.g., higher percentage of made free throws) over outcome goals (e. g., winning) sustain more attention for the immediate task at hand. Getting wrapped up in thoughts about outcome only leads to distraction, anxiety, and pressure, e.g. “If we win tonight we can take over first place.”
Staying focused on performance goals keeps you firmly in the present and can prevent the loss of self-confidence that could occur when playing a “stronger team.”
Quick, recall the best sports performance of your life. You may not remember the details well because you were so completely absorbed in the moment. Chances are you were “in the zone.” This is where things were effortless and automatic. Time went by quickly and your thoughts did not hinder your performance. Thinking about past mistakes or possible outcomes would have only spoiled this peak experience. Your focus on performance that day was effective and winning took care of itself. Ideally, this is where you want to be every game.
One way to remain focused on performance is to set short-term goals. These should include daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Use a notebook to keep track of your goals. Use a comment section to help determine if the goals are realistic. If they are not, you must set the bar a tad lower.
Make sure that your performance goals are specific, measurable, and realistic. Here are some examples of performance goals:
Increase your jumping height by 2 inches to improve a volleyball spike.
Increase your free throw success from 55 to 70 percent.
Replace every on-field negative self-statement with a positive statement.
Decrease your 40-yard dash time by 2 seconds.
Reduce your unforced errors by 50 percent.
So let’s take the emphasis off winning and concentrate on performance goals. After all, these are goals you can control.