Find the Calm Center

Even in a hurricane, there is a calm center. Apply focused intensity to find it with these five strategies.

“When you connect to the silence within you, that is when you can make sense of the disturbance going on around you.” — Stephen Richards

Competing at a high level requires intensity.

Intensity itself is useless unless focused. Every coach and player knows the difficulty of sustaining focused intensity for an extended period of time. The same is true in non-athletic pursuits, primarily because the mind is often less resilient than the body.

My team of field hockey players is heading into regional tournament play next week. They are ready physically. My job as a coach is now to prepare them mentally for better, faster opponents.

Tournament play is next level. It’s an incredible rush of emotions. The stakes are higher. Any opponent can defeat you if they want it more. One loss and you’re out. It feels like being swept up in a hurricane where you’re just holding on to survive.

The trick is finding the calm center.

Each player must connect with the “silence within” and stay connected. One perturbation can throw a player and the entire team off. If you wonder why major swings in fortune happen during a game, it’s because one team gains focus while the other team loses it.

Focus is the most difficult part of coaching. It’s also the most difficult part of any creative endeavor. As with the athlete, you must find the calm center to produce your best work.

Try the following strategies to stay on your game:

1. Eliminate all distractions. They bleed precious energy and time. They scatter your ability to focus.

2. Make everything familiar. Start by establishing a pregame routine or ritual. When the game starts, you should be at peak performance level, focused and ready for flow.

3. Practice with the same focused intensity as you play. Introduce the same speed, stress levels and high response. This is an important aspect of deliberate practice.

4. Practice every possible scenario. Surprise is the mortal enemy of focus. When something goes wrong, you’ve already seen it before. Your practiced response is automatic.

5. Support each other. Even in individual endeavors, your support network is critical. Make sure you care for it by engaging with others. Try to give more than you get.