3 Strategies for Distraction/Composure Control

The coach starts to yell/gets angry. “He’s incredibly angry at me.”

Thoughts about situation:
I lose confidence in my actions, think that I can’t win and even sometimes dig in just to get back at him. He’s irritated that I’m not listening.

Healthier Thought:
It really does not matter what he thinks because his “yelling” will not make me perform better or worse if I stay focused on his message and not his emotion. His anger however gets me thinking in a negative doubtful way and this is simply not productive. KISS (Keep it Simple and Specific). Take as much of the emotion out of it as possible. If I clearly hear the “teaching points” and block out his emotion I can have a clear mind and therefore focus on the actions I need to execute on. I’ve done it in lessons, now I need to do it on the strip.

Sometimes he tells me something and it does not work. He gets mad because I can’t do what he wants me to do and he progressively increases his anger. Then he starts yelling and I get progressively more distant and disassociated.

First be aware of when you are distracted by his aggressive nature and his “people/personality style”. Understand the best way to “flex” (effectively respond) to his style of communication. Understanding his style will give you the information you need to simply not negatively react to his expressive style, but respond in a way that will keep you engaged and listening to the “quality” of his coaching points and filter out the rest. Remind yourself of the KISS approach and keep everything less complex.

The opponent attacks in an irritating manner (i.e counterattacks incessantly, runs in and remises, etc.) “I just want to go after this person.”

Thoughts about situation:
I get annoyed and frustrated, and then I start rushing, lose focus, and stop executing intelligently.

Healthier Thought:
To keep from being distracted is to stay composed and centered in the here and now. This is possible if I remain calm and focused on my personal game plan.


To remain calm and focused under stress in very competitive situations I must incorporate the composure tools (The 3-R’s –Recognize, Regroup, Refocus) into practice and learn to trust them. I have faced people like this before. I have to be confident first and precise in my actions. The way to gain confidence is to execute on very specific practice plan each and every practice so I am comfortable with my strengths in a competitive situation.

Know when you are distracted and what exactly distracts you. This once again could be something overt or covert that gets you irritated. You now will interject your plan to counter attack the distraction, and get back on track with your game plan. Know your strengths and weaknesses and do not demand perfection. Your counter attack plan is to stick to your plan of attacking with your strengths and make your opponent make unforced mistakes.

When I make a string of “mistakes or poor decisions” I lose confidence. “I’m not fencing well today, I can’t win.”

Thoughts about situation:
Makes me lose composure, get really tight, and panic. When I lose composure I also lose connection with my confidence and start to doubt. When I doubt I no longer trust in my ability to execute. When I no longer trust my mind is no longer centered in the present.

Healthier thought:
It is neither healthy, nor does it have any base in reality for me to doubt all the skills I have practiced, because I do indeed have strengths. What does a string of mistakes mean? What is the definition of “a string of mistakes?” Is the string of mistakes defined as 3 or 4, or 5? To be successful I can allow myself to make mistakes. No one is perfect not even the best competitors in the world. My plan in practice is to master the skills that are my strengths, and work on turning my weaknesses into strengths. I can do this, I just need to use my “breath work” to settle down and channel my nervous energy into usable power to my advantage. I can execute with precision just as I have illustrated to myself in practice. A focused practice is most important. “Practice like I compete and compete like I practice.” You can do this!


Allow myself the flexibility to make 5-7 mistakes in practice, and 3-5 in competition, but do not judge myself if I make more errors. Allowing for flexibility in making mistakes is simply a guide to keep you centered without judgment and focused in the present. Who cares what “they” do. It’s more important to pay attention to how you “react” to what you do. Again, it is your opponents game plan to score points and he is going to do it anyway he can. So, in doing this he is going to try and irritate you. Know this in advance and don’t give in to his scoring by giving him more power on you because you are no longer focused.

I call poor decisions and mistakes 50% of the time. Your challenge is to reduce this to 30% of the time. You can do this by incorporating a strategy that keeps you from being distracted.

Please share with me your thoughts and ideas and if you find this information helpful.

John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach  – (Protex Sports, LLC) 800-608-1120

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