Sports Psychology
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Relationship of Flow and Peak Performance in Winning

Concentration of Focus Maximizes Results
     Athletes and scholars can achieve unique states of consciousness as the result of their long hours of practice or studying in which they reach intense levels of concentration. There are reports of an altered sense of time and a feeling of effortless performance. The individual's self-consciousness becomes diminished, as the individual's involvement deepens.

     Michael Csikszentmihalyi describes in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990)  the flow state as "one in which an athlete or other person performs at his or her best, seemingly without effort, but with total concentration, feeling totally in control without thinking about it. Self-consciousness recedes into the background as total focus is upon present activity."

    The first sport psychologist to describe how athletes felt during their greatest moments was Ravizza in 1977. Interviews were conducted of 20 male and female athletes who played in 12 different sports yielded the following characteristics:

  • Loss of fear — no fear of failure
  • No thinking of performance
  • Total immersion in the activity
  • Narrow focus of attention
  • Effortless performance — not forced or strained
  • Feeling of being in complete control
  • Time-space disorientation (usually slowed down)
  • Perceive universe to be integrated and unified
  • Unique, temporary, involuntary experience
    A universally experienced element that is experienced is the automatically of a flow state in which one or more skilled action are performed without conscious control. This state is attributed to over learning of skills that produces the automatically considered necessary for creativity,

Playing in the zone first requires a level of physical skill that enables you to perform
without consciously thinking about it. In fact the body's reaction to a given stimulus
must occur at a speed that is faster than conscious thought.

    When a  beginner is first learning and developing new skills, there is a state of "self talk" in which the learner reminds him or herself of the check list of things required to perform the task. For example, "Take your time, take a deep breath, bend your knees, and follow through."

    This self-talk helps the individual develop a mental process that  enables  them to make needed adjustments and corrections during the learning process. It also serves as a reminder to practice the task the same way each time until it becomes automatic.

    Self-talk should not occur during a game or competition. At this point, you are attempting to use skills that are already developed. When you are in the zone, you shouldn't think technical performance skills or tactics as this actual can become a distraction.

Recommended Reading:

How to Achieve Peak Performance « Basil Vandegriend Aug. 15, 2006 ... Professional athletes in particular are very focused on achieving peak performance. They do not simply hope that they perform well and accept whatever level of performance they achieve each day, but instead have a system for ensuring they do their best.

Six Characteristics for Achieving Peak Performance We hear a lot today about being your best, taking care of business, achieving success, and performing at your peak. What we don't always hear is what it takes to sustain peak performance.

References:

Focus and Flow: How to Achieve Perfect Concentration

The Zone: An Empirical Study   Evidence of a Universal Phenomenon for Athletes Across Sports .... were identified to reflect the ideal internal climate for performing optimally.

In the Zone, zoning in sports, peak performance, mental ...  An athlete who is 'in the zone' experiences an unusual feeling of ... In fact, they often feel as if they weren't responsible for the performance at all.

How to Reach Your Achievement Zone     by Drs. Shane M. Murphy and Annemarie Infantino Murphy

How Great Athletes Find "The Zone": Part I   May 4, 2011 ... So what is this “zone”? How can athletes find it? ... movement: This element refers to the fact that the athlete is performing well but yet ...

In the Zone: The Zen of Sports     by Andrew Cooper

Athletes in the Zone:  Aug. 13, 2004 ... A new study shows that athletes who can get "in the zone" are better able to suppress or ignore negative thoughts,

What Is the Zone and How Do You Get Into It? (golf)     by Patrick J. Cohn

The Zone and Golf (golf)     by Tom Ferraro, Ph.D.

Sports Psychology: For Athletes to Deal With Stress on ...   Jan. 24, 2011 ... Unfortunately, stress is a common issue with which top athletes are... ... that keeps him or her in the 'zone' and playing in the zone.
 
Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
  

  
  
Alcohol Abuse
Drug Abuse
Caffeine Use
Nicotine Use
Anxiety 
Response to Stressors
Learning to be Helpless
Depression and Elation
Eating Disorders
Learning Disorders
Stress and Anxiety
Athlete Motivation
Confidence
Consistency
Flow/Peak Performance
Focus & Concentration
Goals and Objectives
Goal Setting
Hypnosis
Leadership
Personal Sabotage
Self Fulfilling Prophecy
Momentum
Motivation


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