Mind Over Sports

HOW TO BECOME MORE FOCUSED.

Posted on: April 21, 2014

“Focusing” is a mental state where no emotional issues distract an athlete’s performance. Successful athletes are often described as focused, concentrating complete attention on the job at hand.

To achieve focusing a person must resolve emotional issues; merely exposing them isn’t enough. For small issues the process may be simple: before an event a recreational player might write down things that are supposed to be done afterward, such as bring home a gallon of milk or return a book. That way trying to remember those obligations during the event won’t subconsciously distract the player. Such distractions can even harm professional athletes.

Former St. Louis Cardinals infielder Mike Tyson (no relation) recounted a bases-loaded mound conference requested by pitcher Al Hrabosky. Hrabosky “told me he had to go somewhere after the game, and asked me if I still had the rental car. He asked if he could borrow it.”

When the divorce of Mets first basemen Keith Hernandez became final on a Monday, in his next seven at-bats he hit three home runs and drove in nine. “Maybe I should get divorced every day,” he said. “I’d be broke, but I’d be in the Hall of Fame.” Daily divorce may be unnecessary, but Hernandez obviously needed to shift his focus from marital strife to baseball. His basic skill didn’t change, but his focus changed and allowed him to reach his skill level.

When George Brett and Jamie Quirk were playing for the Kansas City Royals, a problem arose that affected both of them. By way of background, Brett and Quirk came up through the minors together and were as close as two human beings could be. Then, after they made it into the majors, Quirk married and Brett and Quirk’s new wife didn’t get along. One source told me it was probably because of Brett’s jealousy. After all those years together, Brett was now alone and Quirk had his own life with a wife. The two grew apart and had little contact. At that time, I happened to have a friend who knew Brett and I suggested that she point out to George that it is in his best interest to handle this issue, which, I believed, was affecting his performance. She conveyed my message to him and soon after, on June 5, 1988, it was reported in The Kansas City Star that Jamie Quirk drove George to the ballpark, and on that same day Brett hit two home runs, a triple and a single.

By relinquishing emotional issues that obstruct concentration, an athlete can focus on a sports event. Focused athletes are more likely to perform at their skill level. Such focusing provides an advantage over competitors who may be inherently more talented but who fail to reach their skill level because they have not come to completion with emotional issues in their lives.

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