Finding Your Groove

Your Groove Controls

What's the Groove?

Multiple Grooves
Think —> React

Your Focus Style

Additional Reading

What's the Groove?

Your groove is that point where you feel just right. You're centered; you're aware; and your moves are smooth. It's like you're one with the game.

The feeling of doing something right has little to do with brute strength or strict conditioning. It's that special feeling of being tuned-in. When you hit this ideal state everything seems to go right. It feels like you can do no wrong.

Almost everyone hits their groove occasionally, but for most players it happens during practice, and then without any witnesses. Sport tales of, "You should have seen me this morning, I couldn't miss," rival fish stories in frequency. The real trick is to do your best, to hit your groove, during competition when it counts the most.

The idea of being in a "groove" has always been mysterious. As a result, playing well has attracted superstitions, such as, wearing a familiar "lucky" hat, patting a teammate on the shoulder before a kick, or eating your lucky pancakes and sausage.

Tough Section

This is a tough section. No single principle is that difficult, but a lot of new concepts are presented. Please read on even if it's confusing. A sequence of steps near the end should pull the principles together.

As a preview, here are the up-coming topics (somewhat like the last section's "bucket category").

a. Mental model. An overview.
1. Style preparation. How to identify your Focus Style.
2. Your attention. Don't fight your mind.
3. Focus Style. Using your style.
4. Your groove. At last.

Multiple Grooves

The first step in controlling your groove is to identify what groove you want to find. Grooves have specific characteristics, and any given sport may have multiple grooves that you will need to slip into and out of.

Basketball offers a good example of multiple playing characteristics. Defense requires high intensity and quick reflexes; offense needs a sense of being smooth; and foul shooting shifts to being centered and precise.

Sports like golf, with their steady play, usually follow a single groove. Although hitting drives and putting are different, being smooth and centered works well throughout the game.

If your sport seems to use one groove, your task involves learning to find and control that groove. If your sport requires multiple grooves, you need techniques for shifting between them. More on that later.

Groove By Sport

It follows that if sections of a single sport have different grooves, other sports may require a unique groove adjustment. Your adjustments for throwing darts might be different than bowling, football, or distance running.

An exercise:

List out your different sports, breaking out any multiple groove sections. Think back to a time when you played well and note that feeling.

For example:
- Golf. Centered and smooth.
- Baseball (batting). Quiet, everything in slow motion.
- Basketball (defense). Intense, really quick.
- Pool. Smooth.
- Football (defense). Explosive.
- Darts. Centered.

Groove By Individual

People are different also. An adjustment that brings out your best game may distract someone else.

Understanding your unique focus patterns is critical, for any adjustment that does not fit will turn into a distraction and decrease your performance.

Incorrect groove techniques are common. Someone finds an adjustment that works for them, and they can't help but share the technique with others. It's a natural reaction. Unfortunately, one person's visualization can be a hindrance for someone else.

Where one person needs to be intense, others may need to be relaxed; where another person needs to see the ball going in, others may need to feel centered. What works for one person, may not work for another. For that reason, you need to customize a performance strategy that fits your style and mental patterns.

The following sections help you identify your unique adjustments. They will require fine-tuning and practice, but the results are worth the effort. The ability to slip into your groove when it counts provides an advantage in every sporting contest.

The Model: Think —> React

Let's start with the big picture.

As humans, we have built-in response mechanisms. The most common response is Think and React.

We think by taking in information. We may see a movement, hear a sound, or feel the breeze. Our senses collect this data for us. Then we respond.

For purposes of building a groove model, we're going to focus on Seeing, Hearing, and Feeling as our main informational gathering mechanisms. These inputs will lead your into your groove. (Bandler and Grinder call this our representational system, i.e., we represent the world through what we see, hear, or feel.)

The Groove Model — You're In Control

How does "Think —> React" translate into finding your groove?

Some mix of sensory input and internal messages trigger your groove reaction. The simplest model is: Specific Thoughts —> Groove.

This may seem overly simplified, but it's important to be clear that you cause the shift into the groove with your thoughts — it's not some mysterious process that you can't control.

Examples of simple groove reactions:

  • Imagining the shot going in —> the groove.
  • Saying to yourself, "I can do this" —> the groove.
  • Feeling my shoes —> the groove.
  • Hearing the crowd —> the groove.

  • Those Thoughts?

    So, are these the thoughts that trigger the groove? Well...not yet.

    First, you need to deal with the fact that your mind can be stubborn. It doesn't like to be told what to do.

    Here's the problem. You need to concentrate to do your best, but your mind doesn't like to be bossed around. You're trying to focus, and it seems like your thoughts are all over the map. There's this image, and then that...

    Can you force yourself to focus?

    Yes, but it takes a great deal of effort, and it burns out most players. They might be able to force concentration over a few games, but by the end of the season they breakdown.

    Don't Fight It

    We want to find our groove, but our mind resists specific directives. Since our mind is in charge, we can't expect to fight it and be successful.

    What to do?

    We'll give up. We won't fight it. Instead of trying to catch our mind's attention, and force it to our target, we'll see what our mind is doing. We won't fight it; we'll connect to it.

    Hmm... Instead of yelling, "Look over here," just go to whatever is catching your mind's attention.

    Once you and your mind connect on the same image, the resistance seems to dissolve. You are connected.

    Your task: Notice what your mind is focused on. Put your attention there.

    An exercise:

    Walk into a room and see what catches your attention. Don't force it. Just notice where your mind wants to go. Don't worry if your focus point seems silly or isn't polite. No one needs to know but you.


    - Lou noticed the blonde's nose.
    - Patty focused on the guy's voice.
    - Tony noticed the trophy in the corner.

    Remember, don't worry about it making sense, just notice what is catching your attention. Don't lock into a set image. The next time something else may pull your attention.

    Your Focus Style

    Now that you know how to connect with your mind's attention, it's time to return to the Specific Thoughts —> Groove model. The next step is sliding into your groove.

    Flowing into your groove isn't automatic. Your mind needs guidance, and this is where your observation patterns (visual, auditory, and feeling) come into play.

    We all have a primary way to take in information. Some folks are visually oriented and see images; others are auditory focused and hear sounds; and yet others are feeling based and sense things.

    Obviously, we all use these senses, but each person has a dominant style for certain situations.


    Visual Style:

  • Seeing myself make the catch.
  • Seeing the audience nod agreement to my comment.
  • Seeing myself make the movement.
  • Noticing the colors.
  • Watching the movement on the field.
  • Seeing the ball go in.

    Auditory Style:

  • Saying to yourself, "I can beat this guy."
  • Saying to yourself, "I can do this."
  • Hearing the music.
  • Listening to the sound of the voices.
  • Hearing the quiet.
  • Saying to yourself, "I'll just do my job."

    Feeling Style:

  • Feeling smooth.
  • Feeling centered.
  • Noticing the grip of my shoes on the floor.
  • Feeling the chalk on my hand.
  • Noticing the feel of the handle.

  • Comments:

    Anne said, "I can't see how any person can take in information without seeing the situation. Hearing I can't see."

    It's often difficult to crossover into another style. Initially, try to focus on learning your own focus style. In Anne's case, for example, she needs to focus on the Visual Style. It's a big jump for her to connect with someone in the Auditory Style.

    If the concept of Focus Styles doesn't make sense immediately, please bear with it. For many it's a very different way of looking at things.

    What's the Sports Connection?

    You have your minds attention. That's big. You now need a way to lead it to your groove. Your Focus Style will help with that shift.

    So, what is your personal style?

    What's My Style?

    Two methods work well for identifying your personal focus style: analyzing your words and a "spacing out" experiment.

    Let's take a look at each:

    1. Your words. Write out a description of how this training has gone so far. Next, examine the words.

    Words like, "I see what you mean," indicates a visual style. "I hear you," is auditory. "I'm getting a sense of that," is the feeling style.

    2. Spacing Out. Sit back and notice the area around you. Use the three styles (visual, auditory, and feeling) to examine the room. Notice which one makes you more alert, which one makes you a little spacey, and if any is just difficult to do.

    Whichever style made you a bit "spacey," a little more relaxed, that's the style we want to use to find your groove.


    Tony liked the feeling of the chair. It was soothing. (Feeling Style)

    Ed was surprised. He felt best talking to himself. (Auditory Style)

    Once she noticed it, it was obvious. Staring at almost anything made Anne a little sleepy. (Visual)

    Betty said, "My style came out as visual. I always thought of myself as a feeling type person."

    These are information processing styles. Don't mix them up with any personality images you may have of yourself.

    Riding Your Focus Style into the Groove

    Now it's time to combine your attention catching technique with your focus style.

    Let's say you're preparing for a game and want to find your groove. Here's the steps:

    1. Style preparation. Sometime before the game you need to identify your focus style (visual, auditory, or feeling).

    2. Your attention. As the game is about to start, notice where your attention is being pulled. Let it pull you in. If your focus style is visual, most of the time this will be some image; auditory will be sounds; feelings will be some sensation.

    3. Focus style. Use this center of attention and your focus style to tighten your concentration. Let it pull you into your groove.

    4. Your groove. At first, you'll feel yourself slipping down gradually. Then the pull is stronger. Next, you're there. Everything is smooth, focused, and centered. You're in your groove.

    Finding your groove is like sliding into a funnel. At the top things are wide open (attention). Your focus style helps you move deeper into the funnel, sliding down smoothly and easily.

    At the tightest point you are concentrated and focused.

    Several facilitating effects were taking place as you moved down the funnel. First, you weren't fighting your mind — you went with its attention. Second, your person Focus Style made it easy to ignore other things.

    Let's look at a few examples:

    Anne said, "Sitting in the chair and looking around, feeling and sounds didn't do anything. As I focus on seeing the furniture and the papers on the desk, I could feel myself being pulled in."


    Bill said, "My focus style was feeling. The next time on the court I tried to notice what feelings caught my attentions. My shoes were it. Or, more like the feel of my feet on the wood floor.

    When the game started, I used the feel of my feet on the floor to pull me into my groove. It was the best game I even played. Really. I'm amazed."

    If you've done the exercises and have learned to move from Attention to Focusing to the Groove, you've made a major leap in your ability play up to your potential.

    Well done!

    Because you're beginning with your mind's own focus point, finding your groove will be easier than you ever thought. You start out in sync with your mind, and your sense of connection will only increase.

    Practice helps. You'll get good at going with your mind's attention. You'll learn to rely on your Focus Style to pull you down your concentration funnel.

    What's Next?

    As good as the groove controls are, they're not perfect. Sometimes you'll get distracted. The next sections examine how to recover from a mix of "groove" problems.

    Additional Reading

    Reframing : Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Transformation of Meaning by Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Connirae Andreas. Real People Press, 1989.
    * Bandler and Grinder's use of representational systems revolutionized Psychology. Those simple concepts made the ability to control your groove a reality.

    Frogs into Princes : Neuro Linguistic Programming by Richard Bandler, John Grinder. Real People Press, 1981.
    * Not directly about sports, but it offers more insight on your ability to perform.

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