The Focal Point
This is Mark Trumbo, the Designated Hitter for the Baltimore Orioles, and no he is not staring at his bat asking himself, "how do I use this thing?"
He is staring at the barrel of his bat, which is helping him channel his emotions, and regain his focus in order to do damage on the next pitch. This is called his "Focal Point", and many elite athletes across all sports use a focal point when they are competing.
Focal Points are essentially mental checkpoints that an athlete can go to during practice, games, or in the tense and nerve-wracking moments right before competition.
So how does the Focal Point work? It is the place an athlete can look to regain focus when they are struggling, after they have made a mistake, or when they sense their emotions are starting to unravel.
In my post about Evan Longoria, he says "if I make an error in the field, or swing at a pitch in the dirt at the plate, and I really feel like I’ve lost control of either my emotions or the at-bat, that’s when I step out and look at the top of the left field foul pole.”
The left field foul pole is Evan's focal point to help him slow things down and regain control of his emotions. What is awesome about using the left field foul pole is that every baseball field and every stadium has one. So no matter where Evan is playing, he can rely on his routine to get locked in for each pitch.
When I work with athletes to help them develop their focal points, I like to have them pick a spot that is high up and removed from the course, court, field, or pool. By placing their focal point high up, it momentarily removes the athlete from the area of competition and gives them a brief respite from whatever is causing their anxiety or nerves. Also, it generates positive and confident body language! By looking up at the top of the left field foul pole, the barrel of the bat, the top of the scoreboard, the field goal posts, or the flag markers hanging over the pool it is forcing the chin to go up and the chest to go out. The body is sending a message to the brain, "Lets get back on track! Lets get confident!"
When looking at your focal point add in the deep breath and maybe a quick sentence of self-talk that will help you get present, positive, and ready to compete at your highest level.
Now that you have a good idea on what a focal point is, you may be wondering, "when do I use it?" You can use your focal point when:
-Your thoughts turn negative.
-Your confidence is waning.
-After a play when you have made an error or mistake.
Basically, anytime you are losing control of yourself and your emotions, and a you need to get back to a better place mentally.
Before each match, Tennis Legend Roger Federer picks a specific spot on the back wall as his focal point. He will lock in on that spot before each serve in order to get himself present and focused on THIS serve. It helps him dominate his matches one point at a time. He trusts his process based on his routines and it has helped play a key part in winning TWENTY Majors.
Every athletic venue provides focal points for athletes. Pick your spot that will generate confident body language, regain your focus, and help you get present and ready to compete at your highest level on the next pitch, play, possession, or swing!
Let me help you develop your focal point! Contact me directly via email winDMC@kaplanmentalgame.com.
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