Forget Being in the Zone & You Might Find Yourself There


It’s the bottom of the ninth, the last 10 meters, forth and 1, 6 seconds left; whatever the sport situation is, performing at your best is crucial. So how do we make sure you are at your best even when the pressure is on? Why do some players of similar abilities have consistently different outcomes? For top-level/elite athletes they know that they need to practice and train for their mental skills, as well as their physical skills. This cohesion of physical and mental performance is sometimes referred to the zone or flow. Most athletes have felt this at some point during competition and/or training but they are then left trying to achieve a sensation. This chase of a feeling can be mentally exhausting. Being concerned about being in the zone pulls our attention away from what is important. The focus should be on all of the things we can control (your training, warm-up, nutrition, etc). Instead of trying to get yourself into a zone let’s look into what are the components of being in the zone. These components will help you become a better athlete regardless and may even aid in getting yourself back into the zone.

  1. Be creative!- The most obvious path to your goals is not always the best. Similar to mixing up how you train to help your muscles get stronger/faster, mixing up your path to your goals may speed up and/or put more focus on your goals.
  2. Positive self-talk- As athletes our natural inclination is to have negative thoughts about what we could do better. That’s why we compete but negative talk hurts our confidence and our performance. Start working on being more positive. Think about what you have done well, or all of the hard work you have put into training.
  3. Stay cool- By keeping your cool you can better deal with anxiety and minimize your chance for panic attacks. Deep breathing and muscle relaxation can help you stay calm.
  4. Focus- Stay in the present. Only pay attention to what benefits you in performance.
  5. Consistency- Have a routine and stick to it. Make every performance the same. It allows you to stay on task, be focused, and feel comfortable in any environment.

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Joe Spano

Joe Spano

Sport Psychology Consultant, Adjunct Lecturer
Joe Spano attended Boston University School of Medicine for his Masters degree in Mental Health and Behavioral Medicine with a focus on sport and exercise psychology. He has done consulting work with athletes, teams, and coaches across Northern New England. He has also spoken about the benefits of sport psychology at various conferences to parents, players, and coaches. While completing his PhD in Health Psychology he currently serves as the Sport Psychology Coach with the MAC/ Bollettieri Tennis Academy and Manchester Athletic Club in Manchester, MA.
Joe Spano


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