Finding Your Groove

A Guide to Playing Your Best

What Is the Groove?

Think Back
Ask Yourself

Concentration Funnel

Varies By Individual

Being in your groove is the best time in sports. Your movements flow; you have a sense where other players are going; and your reflexes gear up a notch. It's your groove.

When someone finds their groove, it's obvious. You can see the look in their eyes — they're the ones you want at bat with the winning run on first. It's not because they're the fastest or the strongest. It's because they have that extra something you can count on when the contest is close.

Tough players are in demand because they aren't thrown off by distractions and the tension of a big game. Somehow they've learned to use that pressure to bring out their best.

Being able to perform under pressure may be the single largest factor in winning, and it is definitely satisfying. Coming up with the big play, making the field goal at the last second, or making the right decision in the middle of confusion is an unforgettable thrill. Doing well under pressure, not simply having tried hard, is at the heart of competitive sports.

Think Back

You're going to learn a great deal about your groove — how to slip into it, how to get back to it when you're distracted, and how to counter slumps.

A good starting point is to think back to times when you were in your groove. It doesn't matter what the situation was, just remember back to a time when you had that special rhythm.

For example:

Anne recalled, "There was that time shooting foul shots in the back yard. It seemed like just me and the rim. I couldn't miss."

Bill said, "I've gotten in the groove throwing darts. I don't hear the noise and the usual ruckus. It doesn't happen very often."

Ask Yourself

If an image doesn't jump out at you, ask yourself, "Are there times when I play well, and times when I can't do anything right?"

Chances are that when you're hot, you've found your groove. You may not know how it happened, or what stopped it at other times, but that's your groove.

For example:

Joe said, "I don't know if it has anything to do with the groove, but sometimes I can't get it together offensively. I try to make up for it and play tough defense."

Ed said, "I had a month when I was all over the place. I thought it was something mechanical in my swing, but it went away."

The following sections provide a framework for untangling low performance times. You will learn to trace problems to your training technique, your groove controls, crowd distractions, or "slump" factors. Each element has specific countermeasures.

Concentration Funnel

The terms used to describe the groove phenomena vary. The Sport Psychology folks talk about visualization and relaxation response; the Clinical Hypnosis people sketch out trance levels; and Medical Doctors offer explanations of stress management.

Many of those practices can be combined into a concept called a Concentration Funnel. This funnel image will help us talk about moving up and down your focus levels, moving from loose attention at the top to tight concentration at the bottom.

Varies By Individual

Before moving on, it's important to recognize that performance grooves are unique to each individual. Many will have different groove controls, and adjustments for distractions and slumps are quite different for each player.

Also, your groove techniques may vary by sport. Concentration patterns, for example, are different for baseball, golf, and tennis.

Don't worry, the following sections offer techniques for identifying your unique patterns, regardless of how much they may vary from situation to situation.

What's Next?

Attitude and training are the great facilitators. The right attitude can make concentration effortless; the proper training can accelerate every part of your learning.

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