Monday, June 11, 2007

Thoughts on Focus, Preparation and Performance

When I was in high school, there were a few of us that played sports (mostly soccer) and were involved in music, art, etc at the same time. There was clearly tension between the "freaks" and the "jocks", but there was not any overt least in the circles I was in. This tension continued in college. I actually think there was more of a distinction at UMASS in the early 80's. I would hazard a guess that the "arts" folks felt more uncomfortable with the jocks than vice verse, but I did make a choice to move away from sports in 1982 and pursue music "seriously". I think if one looks at the current landscape there is more tolerance for pursuing different things in one's life. Perhaps this is just due to the fact that I am older and have a pretty good sense of self at this point, but most of the kids in my daughter's 4th grade class are "over-scheduled" with sports, arts, language, etc.

In general, I have pursued either music or Ultimate during my life, but, over the past couple of years, I have come as close as I have to pursuing both simultaneously...even if I am not playing on the field.

This past weekend I wrapped up a series of eight shows at a local theater in Arlington, and it has been interesting how the sports psych principles that I work on with my girls come into play in terms of performing music. Much of this is repeating what I have said before, but it is helpful to be reminded that the basic principles of mental preparation can come into play repeatedly and in different aspects of one's life:

-Focus on the the things you can control--We had one or two nights in which our crowd was a bit smaller than anticipated. I spoke to one leader in the group and he was concerned that the morale of the group might be low due to the smaller crowds. We talked about the size of the crowd as an "uncontrollable". I try to focus on 1) knowing the material and 2) being in tune....not on the size of the crowd or their response.

-Intensity is focus on the present execution of fundamentals--Using emotion as source of intensity or drive is opening yourself to the ups and downs of your emotional and energy cycles. I found that the more I focused on execution first, the more I was able to tap into higher and, most importantly, consistent, emotional states. I think many of the Ultimate players I played with and the musicians I play with now are dependent upon external factors for their intensity....or on an "emotionally" driven sense of intensity, which, in my opinion, results in inconsistent performance.

-Preparing for games(or a performance) should be the same for all games (or important performances)--We had a classic example of not doing this this past weekend. On Saturday, the gig was "important"...investors coming to see the show, etc. All of a sudden our routine changed. Everyone warmed up in a different way and there was at atmosphere of "this is serious". Well, we played fine, but just slightly tight. On Sunday, when it "didn't matter"...surprise...we went back to "normal"...and we played loose and fun. Sound familiar? There is no doubt that your mental state will be different for finals than for round 1 of pool play, but this is all the more reason to rely on familiar routines for preparation. Want to be loose in the finals? Then warm up on Sat morning the same way you prepare on Sunday afternoon.

-Keep your brain in the present-- Focus is a big deal. It takes a lot of experience to maintain concentration for an entire game. All my mistakes this weekend came when my mind was not in the present. I was thinking about what just happened or what was going to happen.

So, it was am interesting experience to apply this stuff to an area outside of what I am used to. It was also helpful to subject myself to what I ask of my girls. In general, I was relaxed, focused, had good execution, and, best of all, I had a very good time.


Chuck said...

Hey dude,

Interesting to hear you blogging about music and Ultimate. I just started bringing my fiddle to pretty much every event (practice/tourney) that I go to, and after a season of encouragement from my teammates on Brass Monkey, have found that it's an awesome way to make playing music a habit. Music is a very unique challenge and requires openness and a certain buy-in, same as playing Ultimate with confidence in my experience. (Sidenote: you sound really old.)

Enough of that free-spirit, hippie, BS; the real reason I'm posting is to find out if the fields at Devens will be really hard this year. I went 3 years ago, and they were rock-hard. You been out there lately?


gcooke said...


Is that old good...or old bad?

I was out at the fields for Mixed Easterns. They are in good shape. We've had enough rain to keep them pretty soft.