Sometimes athletes focus too much on body mechanics and movements. When you’re learning a new skill, you should focus internally to get the feel of the movement. If you’re learning or changing your serve swing, you might focus on your right arm, your racquet, your left arm, your toss … etc. As you attempt to integrate this new movement pattern, your performance is likely to be uneven. This is what practice is all about – focusing on improving your technique by getting a better feel of the movement.
The problem arises when thoughts about body mechanics continues after your have learned te skill. At this point the skill should be automatic, and your attention should be primarily on what you’re doing with a minimum of thinking. If you’re playing a match you should not be focusing on body mechanics. Rather, you should be externally focused on your ball placement and strategy because once a skill is learned well, an overemphasis on body mechanics is detrimental to performance.
This doesn’t mean that no thinking occurs once a skill is well learned. But an emphasis on technique and body mechanics during competition is usually detrimental to performance because the mind gets in the way of the body. Conscious control is important in learning a skill but is slow and requires effort. A player using conscious control would have difficulty performing a skill in competition because he would be spending too much time focusing on what to do rather than using automatic processing (requiring little attention and effort).
Research has shown the important role that attention plays in choking and the overanalysis of the movement itself. Specifically, attention on the task to be performed appears helpful to performers learning the skill, and thus teachers and coaches should draw learners’ attention to task, kinesthetic, and perceptual cues. However, skilled performers showed decreases in performance under conditions designed to prompt attention to step-by-step execution. Thus, what often happens when athletes choke is that they focus too much on the specifics of performing the task and this added attention breaks down the movement pattern that has been automated and practiced over and over. What was once automatic is now being performed through conscious thoughts. Thus, added attention might be beneficial as performers learn a task, but it becomes counterproductive and detrimental in competition when skills need to be performed quickly and automatically.
If you want to know more about Vida Mind, do a free session with Dr. Damien Lafont. Contact him at [email protected] or call 0435 819 262 and he will get in touch with you to schedule 45 min with you either in person or over Skype. In this free info session with him, you’ll go through what is keeping your performing at your best. You’ll know Dr Lafont, how he works and whether you are a good fit for each other.
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