Maximize Your Potential Through Mental Training and Focus

12 09 2011

Focusing on immediate goals is a key part of mental training.

By Adam Zucco

In his book In Pursuit of Excellence: How to Win in Sport and Life Through Mental Training, internationally acclaimed author and sport psychologist Terry Orlick outlines his techniques that have helped Olympic athletes and ordinary people maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

I have been working with some of my athletes in regards to mental training, specifically focus, using the principles that Orlick explores in his book.

Principles of Focusing

1. Try to remain oblivious to the outside world. Orlick provides great examples of how well we are able to push ourselves when we are not aware that we are being “scored.” Ask yourself how things change for you when you realize people expect things out of you.

2. Focus is something that requires practice. The author describes a technique using an index card with a dime-sized black dot on it. He tries to study the dot until there is really nothing else in his world other than the dot. It becomes almost like a controlled daydream. Practice imagery along with this for the most effectiveness.

3. Learn to put less thought into all of your reactions. This will take some practice, but try letting your body go a few times and see what happens. Do not overthink all the things that you do.

4. Learn to use reminders to help you refocus.

If you experience problems focusing, then you have to learn to just let it happen. Focus is not something that can be forced.

The difference between your best and worst performances usually comes down to focus. In our worst performances, we most likely let negative, anxiety-producing or distracting thoughts, like worrying about other competitors, rule our emotions.

Focusing Strategies

1. Return to the basics and follow a pre-practiced plan.
2. Focus only on your immediate goal.
3. Reassure yourself that you are trained, and that you are ready.
4. Remind yourself of past performances.
5. Remember that your goals are realistic; all you want to do is what you know you can.
6. Focus on doing what is right for you rather than worrying about what is wrong.
7. Imagine perfect execution of your skill.
8. Stay in the moment.
9. Intensify your focus on form.
10. Remind yourself that it is just another performance.
11. If you hate it, leave it.

In addition to being head coach of the Multisport Madness Triathlon Team, the largest youth triathlon program in the country, Adam Zucco is a USAT Level II and Training Bible coach. He was named USAT’s 2009 Developmental Coach of the Year. Read his blog at




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