Distraction is one of the 3 team defeaters. It comes in many forms. It can be experiences in our personal lives or in the moment of competition on the field. It is important to identify potential distractions. They should be identified and discussed during pre-season training. Having the players name some potential distractions will help them think through the process, and allow you as a coach to see what is in their minds. If an athlete says relationships, schoolwork, or nerves…this will give you an idea of where he/she is mentally and what they view as a temptation.
A power of influence is commitment and consistency. Having players commit to focus through distraction is a powerful tool. Once a player has committed to act a certain way, they feel obligated to do so. If they act outside of the boundaries we should simply be able to call them on it to have them fall back in line. It’s human nature.
A mistake we can make when teaching players about managing distraction is vocalizing the distraction in the moment of competition. I’ll give you an example- If I brief my special operations team prior to a mission, we will of course mention the threat level of a possible IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and plan accordingly. The difference as a team leader is, I will not mention it right before we load our vehicles. If I say, “hey fellas, don’t think about getting blown up.”Minds will go straight to getting blown up. You’re probably envisioning it in your head right now just reading this. Rather I want to pro-actively insert a fundamental to concentrate on such as “while on the way, everyone walk through your role in the operation in your mind” I always want my team members minds moving towards producing positive actions for their teammates in an effort to win.
In the same way, if we say “don’t listen to the people in the stands, or what they said about you on ESPN last night” your mind goes straight there. This is not productive in the moment of competition. Rather a phrase such as: “We need the baseball hit to the right side of the field, stay inside the ball”…Where then does your mind then go? Navy SEALs graduate BUD/s by focusing through distraction. Pain, cold, and exhaustion are simply distractions from our goal. The key is…your goal must be worth it to you. That’s how winning is done and It Pays To Be A Winner.