Helping young athletes manage the pressure of expectation (Process focus)

Helping young athletes manage the pressure of expectation (Process focus)

Often athletes focus upon the outcomes of matches or competitions such as the result, which they have almost no control over, or they get too fixated upon outcome goals such as scoring goals, winning points or getting high scores from judges. Instead, athletes should focus upon the simpler processes of their sport which, when attained correctly, will eventually add up to playing well, competing effectively, winning games or competitions and maintaining participation.

Too many athletes forget that goals, trys, personal bests and medals are made up of lots of little competencies completed correctly again and again. Once athletes focus upon perfecting these small movements, better performances follow and subsequently better results after that (Schunk & Schwsartz, 1993).

Manageable objectives can be used to help young athletes focus on specific tasks during their performance. No judgments are involved. Objectives create a process-oriented focus that helps athletes concentrate on execution. Furthermore, once these objectives are fulfilled, the athlete will gain confidence, rather than feel disappointed. An athlete that is perfecting the processes of their performance is very rarely an athlete that feels the weight of expectation upon them.

Identifying your process focus…

  1. Process goals are completely under your control. They are the small things you should focus on or do to eventually achieve your outcome
  2. Be aware when your mind drifts to outcomes. Look for warning signs such as increased anxiety or your mind wondering to your own or others expectations
  3. Refocus your attention on your current situation. Take a mental time-out and pause.
  4. What are the processes you need to focus on for the next few minutes of your match, competition or routine?

Process goals provide one facet in establishing a “live in the moment” attitude


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