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FLOW: HELPING ATHLETES PLAY IN THE ZONE Damon Burton -- University of Idaho Cougar Coaches Brown Bag Seminars.

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Presentation on theme: "FLOW: HELPING ATHLETES PLAY IN THE ZONE Damon Burton -- University of Idaho Cougar Coaches Brown Bag Seminars."— Presentation transcript:

1 FLOW: HELPING ATHLETES PLAY IN THE ZONE Damon Burton -- University of Idaho Cougar Coaches Brown Bag Seminars

2 FLOW BASICS Flow is that effortless, automatic performance where everything goes perfectly and you play your best. In ESPN vernacular, Flow is “being in the zone!” Bob Beaman’s 29’2” long jump in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics was Flow The Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. Ice Hockey Team won the gold medal in Lake Placid was Flow or what we sometimes call “synergy” in team sports.

3 FLOW RESEARCH Most Flow research conducted by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian- born professor at University of Chicago Dr. C’s father was a count in Hungarian nobility who gambled away their estate in a high stakes poker game when he was 9. Dr. “C” is interested in what makes activities intrinsically motivating-- activities we do for the pure love of the game.

4 DR. “C’s” RESEARCH Dr. C’s initial research looked at a wide range of performance activities including: sport, music, dance, rock climbing, sculpting, surgery, and painting. When asked about their “peak” experiences where they were most intrinsically motivated, subjects often talked about how their performance seemed to “flow.”

5 THE ESSENCE OF FLOW Flow is a highly-sought-after type of intrinsic motivation because performance seems to transcend mental and physical ability. Not only does Flow promote top performance  enhances enjoyment and  maximizes intrinsic motivation.

6 PERSONAL FLOW EXPERIENCES Can you think of a time when you experienced Flow as a performer, either individually or as a team? Can you think of a time when a performer or team you coached were “in the zone?” What do you remember about these Flow experiences?

7 CHARACTERISTICS OF FLOW challenging activity requiring skill, clear goals and feedback, merging of action and awareness, total concentration on task, loss of ego and self-consciousness, paradox of control, transformation of time, and autotelic experience.

8 1. CHALLENGING ACTIVITY REQUIRING SKILL Activity has to be challenging enough to get the performer totally absorbed in the task. Walking may not be complex enough. Reading a good book or watch a compelling movie can prompt Flow. Flow occurs when you are evenly matched with your opponent.

9 2. CLEAR GOALS AND FEEDBACK Performers must have clear goals for what they are trying to accomplish. Winning is the overriding goal of sport, but athletes need individual goals as well. Flow occurs only when athletes consistently get feedback on goal attainment.

10 3. MERGING OF ACTION AND AWARENESS Performers must get totally “into the activity.” “Sometimes it feels as though I not only concentrate fully on the activity, but also I become the activity” Flow has a Zen-like flavor “… nothing else matters” when we’re in Flow Right brain function

11 4. TOTAL CONCENTRATION fully focused task-at-hand, impervious to distractions, into the present – the “here-and- now” “When I’m playing in the zone, I’m not distracted by school or my upcoming midterms. I’m fully into the game and the game only.”

12 5. LOSS OF EGO AND SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS ego detached from performance, Athletes observe performance, but they don’t judge themselves or rate how they’re doing. no self-criticism – just observe and make changes, How do you respond to a mistake?

13 6. PARADOX OF CONTROL feeling of total control without actually trying to control the situation, able to predict what will happen, total control over an inherently uncontrollable situation (e.g., sport) can’t make Flow happen, must finesse it.

14 7. TRANSFORMATION OF TIME Once Flow is over, time seems to have sped by—hours seem like minutes. During Flow, time slows down so you have more time to react and make decisions.

15 8. AUTOTELIC EXPERIENCE “auto” – means the experience is highly automatic “telic” – focuses on Flow as the ultimate type of intrinsic motivation

16 PRACTICAL FLOW QUESION Can athletes and coaches create flow, or does it just happen?

17 HOW TO MAXIMIZE FLOW the difficulty of the task to athletes’ skill level, 2maintain proper focus, 3forget time, 4relax and wake up, and 5train for Flow.

18 1. MATCH GOAL DIFFICULTY TO ATHLETES’ CAPABILITIES Challenge Versus Skill Balance ? Goal Flow Difficulty ? Athlete’s Skill Level

19 2. MAINTAIN PROPER FOCUS understand the cues you need to focus on to perform your best, focus on the present not the past or future, concentrate on the things you can control not the things you can’t, learn to block out common distractions.

20 3. FORGET TIME Time acts as a distraction when we start worrying about competition ending. Mistakes upset us more at the end of competitions than the beginning. Be aware of time without dwelling on it or letting it distract you.

21 4. RELAX AND WAKE UP The right “psych level” requires a delicate balance of relaxation and energization. Athletes need to be physically relaxed and mentally calm, but Performers also require a high energy level to compete their best.

22 5. TRAIN FOR FLOW Don’t leave Flow up to chance. If you want to get into Flow frequently and remain longer, you must train for Flow.  set up conditions that maximize the chances of experiencing Flow, and  maintain naturally-occurring Flow as long as possible.

23 TRAINING FOR FLOW Make sure athletes are in optimal physical conditioning and have automated key techniques and tactics. Use mental plans and preperformance routines to create, maintain and regain the Flow-Frame-of-Mind. Develop positive, confident thoughts and feelings, and In team situations, emphasize trust, shared purpose (e.g., goals), communication and selflessness among teammates.

24 WHAT CAN COACHES DO? Set realistic goals for each athlete, Keep practices varied and interesting, Keep everyone active, Avoid constant instruction during practice, Avoid evaluation and criticism during competition, and If flow occurs, leave athletes alone and let flow continue as long as possible.

25 ADDITIONAL FLOW QUESTIONS How often does Flow occur for most athletes and teams? Is Flow more common in individual or team sports? Do male or female athletes experience Flow more often? Is Flow more likely when play is continuous or stops frequently?

26 ADDITIONAL FLOW QUESIONS What impact do timeouts have on Flow? If your team is in Flow, what should you do if your opponent calls timeout? How do substitutions influence Flow? Is it easier to experience Flow when teams substitute a lot or a little? How does offensive and defensive complexity impact Flow?


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