How to Focus on the Process
Present-moment focus or future-focus? What exactly do these terms mean?
These two terms are talked about quite often in hockey. They are also referenced as focusing on the process or focusing on outcomes.
Quite simply, a present-moment focus or process-focus refers to immersing yourself in what is happening right now.
Instead of having your mind stuck in past mistakes or bad games or worrying about the what ifs, you are playing in the flow of the game reacting to what is happening on the ice at that moment.
Process-focus frees up your mind to make plays in real time at that moment.
Action on the ice is so fast, you cannot afford to think about the last play or make predictions for what might happen.
Conversely, focusing on outcomes revolves around what ifs. What if I make a bad pass? What if I give up too many goals? What if I shoot wide of the net? What if we lose?
Focusing on outcomes generates fear, anxiety and apprehension. It causes you to play back on your heels as you nervously wait for what might happen or to say it more succinctly what mistakes you might make.
Focusing on outcomes slows your play on the ice, allowing the opposing team to dictate the pace of the game. Playing slow because your mind has jumped to some place in the future gives your opponents a split-second extra to steal the puck.
Here’s where the confusion comes into play for players when it comes to process versus outcome focus. Many players think, hockey is about winning and that is a concept based on future outcomes. If winning is the goal, why should I think about anything else?
Think of process in terms of practice. Practice is a matter of 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 win games.
Likewise, during a game, focusing on what you can do in the moment–one shift at a time–gives you the best chance to win the game that you are playing.
A good example of a process focus is how the Buffalo Sabres rebounded after a lackluster 6-2 loss against the New York Rangers. The very next game, the Sabres bounced back to beat the Detroit Red Wings, 2-0.
The Sabres could have approached the Red Wings game with the mindset of what if we lose again? Or what if we give up too many goals again?
Instead, the Sabres approached the game with a process-focus, knowing that the little things help produce positive results. Sabres defense-man Colin Miller commented on this very point and the importance on focusing in the moment.
MILLER: “When we play the right way, you see the results. If we play within our system, I think we’re going to have a good chance every night. It’s fun hockey right now.”
The Sabres wanted to win but they realized that victories are the product of making plays–one at a time.
Playing your best as a team is a matter of looking for opportunities each shift to make positive plays. To be at your best, do what you can in the moment, focus on the process and allow the results to take care of themselves.
A Process Focus During Hockey Games:
Focusing on the process is a matter of immersing yourself in the moment–not thinking ahead about the what ifs.
To accomplish this task ask yourself: what do I need to focus on each play that will contribute scoring opportunities?
Remind yourself of these three things between shifts. If you find yourself thinking ahead or dwelling on the past, refocus on the current play.
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