A Futbol “FOCUS!”

By: “The Other Coach K,” David Kelly,
High School, College and Professional Football Coach

After viewing several of the World Cup matches and observing the passionate enthusiasm that accompanies them, it’s easy to see why “Futbol” is the most popular sport worldwide. Just last week, approximately 18 million Americans tuned in to watch the World Cup game between the USA and Portugal, the kind of numbers that typically watch a Monday Night Football game! Why are we starting to buy-in to this “futbol” craze? If you watched the USA vs. Portugal match, you should know the answer – – – it’s fast, it’s furious, it’s fun, and it requires a tremendous amount of FOCUS!

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best “futbol” players in the world, displayed tremendous focus during this match! Ronaldo did not play well for the first 94 minutes, but managed to deliver the final goal to tie the match in the last minute of stoppage time. Most athletes cannot get into the zone if they do not feel they are performing well. They typically beat themselves up, focusing on the negative, rather than staying focused and concentrating on their goal.

But WHAT is “FOCUS”? It’s the ability to control your mind with power and to be in the zone. It’s when you are so totally engrossed in an action that nothing can distract your attention. In sport, focus is making what you are doing in any given moment “the center of interest or activity.” Your mind is not on the past or the future. As Eckhardt Tolle points out, the psychological payoff of focusing in the NOW is immense, because all your problems disappear. What Tolle is saying is there are only two ways to create a problem when you are competing in sport. The first way is dwell on failures from the past and punish yourself for them. This never works because we cannot change the past and punishing ourselves only makes us less motivated, not more motivated. The second way is to obsess about whether these failures might happen again. But when your mind is in the future, there’s absolutely nothing you can do…so you become anxious. The NOW is the antidote to both of these mental habits and it is the most deadly mindset in sport. Being in the NOW not only eliminates fear; it is very punishing to opponents.

But WHAT is “THE ZONE”? It’s a state of mind that feels as if time slows down and you can see everything so clearly. You can feel every muscle working in harmony, exactly as you know each one should work. This power of the mind can make you a superstar, according to basketball’s Michael Jordan. He says, “If I had stood at the free-throw line and thought about 10 million people watching me on the other side of the camera lens, I couldn’t have made anything. I mentally tried to put myself in a familiar place. I thought about all those times I shot free throws in practice and went through the same motion, the same technique that I had used thousands of times. You forget about the outcome. You know you are doing the right things. So you relax and perform.”

But HOW do we develop an ability to “FOCUS” and get in “THE ZONE”? First and foremost, you MUST have a love for the sport. The mind must be able to experience spontaneous joy while performing. This is the #1 rule for getting in “the zone”. And second, it takes practice. The mind, like the body, must be conditioned. One relaxation tip that has become quite popular and can be extremely effective is music. Music is probably the easiest legal way to alter your mood. The key is to use a relaxation technique to block out pressure and eliminate mental habits that are killing your concentration and your performance.

So, you might ask, was Cristiano Ronaldo “FOCUSED” during the match or did he only find “THE ZONE” in the last minute of play? The answer is ….. he was focused enough to overcome his disappointing early play to lead his team to what felt like a victory for Portugal even though the gamed ended in a tie.

Unfortunately, America’s World Cup hopes ended with a tightly contested loss to Belgium in a later match; but once again, an amazing example of “FOCUS” and “being in THE ZONE” was displayed by Tim Howard, the USA goal keeper. Tim had a phenomenal performance with 16 saves throughout the match. To be able to sustain that level of Concentration, and FOCUS, throughout the course of the match, under extreme pressure, is the mark of a “True Champion”.

Well, I have put off my morning “penance” at SSP long enough while using the excuse of writing this blog; so until next month, practice having, and maintaining,

“A Futbol FOCUS!”

FINAL THOUGHT – “The greatness of a person (Team) is when they have fallen, and get up stronger.”

QUESTION OF THE MONTH – Can someone explain to me why everyone has the same chant in soccer? ….. “I believe that we will win!” ….. I can still hear that chant echoing in my sleep?!?

Talk to you next month!
“The Other Coach K”

1 Comment
  1. Great story! The other coach K happens to be my brother and our family is very proud of him and his accomplishments! Coach K has worked hard most of his life and has loved every minute of it, he is truly remarkable and also a "Man of God" , my brother Coach David Kelly, I love him very much!

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