Recently in Goal Setting & Attentional Focus Category

Focus, Goal Mapping, and Self-Confidence

Focus seems to be the central theme across the three chapters of goal mapping, attentional focus, and self-confidence. It is essential to attain many of the concepts that Vealey lays out throughout the three chapters.

Vealey (2005) shows that by effectively using goal mapping an athlete can achieve their team goals and well as their individual goals. Goal mapping helps provide a certain plan of direction that encompasses strategies to focus on goals and utilizes life skills such as planning, setting, evaluating, and resetting different goals (Vealey, 2005). Using goal mapping also allows athletes set personal standards that they can accept and achieve for themselves as opposed to society's standards. When doing goal mapping it is important to focus on what types of goals want to be achieved, whether it be outcome, performance, process, long-term, or short-term goals. It is best to keep an athlete's goals balanced so that they do not have all long-term goals because short-term goals are equally as important if not more. To create relevant, clear goals the Vealey (2005) suggests the Specific, Measureable, Aggressive yet Achievable, and Relevant (SMAART) goal mapping strategy should be applied with time constrictions. Combining all of these strategies into Vealey's (2005) four steps of goal mapping, identify your purpose, plan and develop your goal map, act with purpose, and refresh your goal map with focus on the process of getting to a goal, not the final outcome an athlete should be set up with tools they need to succeed in their goals.

Everything in chapter eight on goal mapping cannot be possible if the athlete's attention is not properly focused. The athlete need to learn how keep their attentional focus in all types of situations. This is why it is import for a coach to systematically overload the athlete in practice to teach them what is important to focus on (selectivity) and what is not (i.e. things the athlete cannot control). Focus is like a technical skill, it needs to be practiced before it becomes second nature. Vealey (2005) states that athletes need to engage in repetitive physical training to automate their skills to withstand pressures and distractions. Aids that help an athlete's attentional focus during competition are developing a pre-performance routine, a focus plan, and mental skills training in the face of distractions, setbacks and obstacles.

Focus can affect an athlete's self-confidence. According to Vealey (2005) an athlete's strongest source of confidence is their prior performance or achievement success. Without an athlete's focus for attaining their goals and having attentional focus in a completion their prior performances will most likely lead to poor self-confidence. Though if a person concentrates on strategies, technical and mental skills, and their preparation, all things within their control according to Vealey (2005) it will more likely translate to stronger levels of confidence. It is important as a coach to give athletes the skills to develop sources of confidence like feedback/encouragement, preparation, and self-regulation. Without every individual on a team having confidence in their abilities in sport, the team's confidence can suffer.

Sara Goral

Vealey, R. S. (2005). Coaching for the inner edge. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Vealey states, "As important as energy management and confidence are to athletes, they are not as critical as the ability to maintain a focused connection with performance. Other mental skills make it easier to focus, but athletes can maintain a strong focus without these supporting and comforting skills (Vealey, p. 264, 2005). Although I agree that there are times that an athlete will lack confidence, an athlete still needs to focus, and therefore, it can be argued that focus is the most important mental skill, I believe that the mental skills and the mental training tools all are interrelated and are more than just a "comfort." Just as chapter 10 discusses the interdependence of the physical and mental training, I recognize the interaction of all of the mental skills and mental tools, specifically among goal mapping, attentional focus and self confidence. I do not see a hierarchy, but rather, an interaction between them all.
Vealey focuses on the difference between panicking and choking and its relation to attentional focus. When athletes panic, it is a result of too narrow of thinking so that athletes can't reason or process information, "panic occurs when people stop thinking (Vealey, p.243, 2005). Choking, however, "results from self focused attention brought on by anxiety, which induces athletes to revert to controlled processing," therefore athletes think too much when they choke (Vealey, p.244, 2005). We know that when actions are automatic, this is when an athlete can get himself or herself into "Flow." We want athletes to be able to either stop thinking if they are choking or start thinking if they are panicking.

Vealey states that goals are "the regulators of behavior." There are a variety of goals including performance goals, process goals, challenge goals, outcome goals, and focus goals. Focus goals include a "specific thought and behavioral patterns than enhance focus and automaticity during competitive performance" (Vealey, p. 162, 2005). If goals regulate our behavior, and focus goals help to enhance focus and automaticity, I would argue that without focus goals, our ability to focus would be greatly inhibited. I believe, therefore, that goal mapping that includes focus goals can and does contribute to the ability to develop attentional focus skills in sport so that athletes now how to respond when they are about to choke or are panicking.

Vealey also devotes an entire chapter to self-confidence (Vealey, ch.14, 2005). She discusses the idea of using confidence as a "Mental Modifier." She displays the idea on a continuum. She places the words "focused" and "consistent" closest to "Peak, Flow, Zone," and she places the words "Lack Focus" and "Inconsistent" nearest "Tank, Slump, Choke." She states that confidence keeps the athlete from sliding towards the terms "Tank, Slump, and Choke." Again, I argue that all terms on the continuum are dependent on confidence. Without confidence, an athlete may lose "focus," and would arguably "slide" towards the possibility of tanking, slumping, and choking, which, as aforementioned, are related to a poor focus response. I conclude, therefore, that confidence and focus are interdependent.

Although, Vealey states that confidence is a "comfort" and that focus is most essential for quality performance, I believe that both confidence and goal mapping are essential parts of developing attentional focus skills, and therefore should be acknowledged as equally important mental skills and tools for an athlete as he or she strives to achieve their "Inner Edge."

Works Cited
Vealey, R. (2005). Coaching for the Inner Edge. Morgantown, VW: Fitness Information