Present-moment focus or future-focus? What exactly do these terms mean when playing football?
These two terms are talked about quite often in football. They are also referenced as focusing on the process or focusing on outcomes.
A present moment focus or process focus refers to immersing yourself in what is happening right now–the current play or your role for each play. You only focus on the current play–not the past or future.
Instead of having your mind stuck in past mistakes or worrying about the what ifs in the future, you’re playing in the flow of the game reacting to what is happening on the field at that moment.
Process-focus frees up your mind to make plays in real time at that moment. The action on the field is so fast, you cannot afford to think about the last play or think ahead about what might happen if you don’t get the first down or make a stop on defense.
When you focus on outcomes, your thinking ahead about the what ifs. What if I make a bad pass and throw an interception? What if I give up too many yards and they score on us? What if I miss a tackle and the runner goes for 20 yards? What if we lose the game?
In addition, when you focus too much on outcomes, you have more fear, anxiety, or apprehension. And fear causes you to play back on your heels as you worry about what might happen such as when you think ahead about making mistakes.
Focusing too much on avoiding mistakes slows down your play on the field, which allows the opposing team to control the pace of the game. Playing tentatively gives your opponents a split-second extra to beat you.
Most players are confused about focusing on the process versus an outcome focus when playing the game…
Many players think ahead about winning the game, which based on future outcomes. If winning is the goal of the football game, why should you think about anything else on the field?
What is a process focus during your practice? Practice is about building skills, developing team play and honing your abilities. You are not trying to win practice, but focusing on what you should be doing in the moment gives you the best chance to improve your skills.
Likewise, during a game, focusing on what you can do in the moment gives you the best chance to win the game that you are playing.
A good example of a process focus is how the Alabama Crimson Tide rebounded this season after a lackluster 44-16 loss against the Clemson Tigers in last years championship game. This year, the Tide have bounced back to have an 8-0 record so far.
The Tide could have approached this season with the mindset of what if we lose again? Or what if we don’t make it to the championship game?
Instead, the Tide approached this season with a process focus, knowing that the little things help produce positive results. Alabama head coach Nick Saban commented on this very point and the importance on focusing in the moment.
SABAN: “Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you needed to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process: Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.”
All players want to win but they realize that victories are the product of making plays–one play at a time, one down at a time.
Playing your best as a team is a matter of everyone doing their job each play, which means focusing on your role for the play call. To focus your best, you want to focus on doing your job in the moment and take it one play at a time.
A Process Focus During Football Games:
Focusing on the process is about immersing yourself in the moment–one play at a time–and not thinking ahead about the what ifs or dwelling on the last play or series.
To focus your best each play, ask yourself: what do I need to focus on this play that will help my team execute a successful play? What are the specific performance cues that will help me read and react?
Remind yourself between each play to only focus on the NEXT snap. If you find yourself thinking ahead or dwelling on the past play, refocus on the current play.
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