What is “The Zone” That You’re Looking For In Order to Achieve Peak Performance?
Everyone involved in sport loves the mystical, sought after state of mind known as “the zone”. This state of supreme focus helps participants of all sports perform at their peak.
Many referees who want to reach their maximum potential are always in search of methods to get into “the zone”. But the zone is really not that complex or difficult to reach when the correct mental game strategies are implemented.
It is virtually impossible to enter “the zone” state every time you referee a match. No one is perfect, but you can learn the mental strategies that will help you achieve it more often than not.
What Really is The Zone?
The zone is simply a mental state of total involvement in the present moment. “Immersed” is a good word to describe it as it indicates you lose yourself (or the sense of yourself) when you’re performing, which is how elite sporting professionals describe the zone.
Being in the zone is a state of total involvement in a task without the mental weight or worry, doubt, or fear about the outcome.
So, if the zone is that simple, why can’t referees achieve this mindset every time they cross the white line?
Many of the top referees do – Michael Oliver, Felix Brych, and Danny Makkelie, for example. But some officials are prevented from entering the zone as they are overcome by huge distractions such as fear of failure and worry.
The top referees know how to harness the power of the zone by using thoughts and images to trigger a mindset to enter the zone.
“I felt as though I was driving in a tunnel. I had reached such a high level of concentration that it was as if the car and I had become one”. – Ayrton Senna, Formula 1 Driver
Ayrton Senna’s quote is a common description of how elite sporting professionals depict or explain their experience in the zone: The driver becomes part of the car, the golfer becomes one with the club and the ball, the referee is in sync with the whistle and so on.
Entering the zone may sound zen-like and mystical, but actually achieving this level of investment is very simple. When your mind fully connects with achieving a goal, such as serving an delivering the perfect game, attention is absorbed into the present (the immediate only). Your mind is focused solely upon the thoughts and images that help you execute with precision.
With direct focus, fear of failure, worry, doubt, indecision, and other mental traps are forbidden from entering your conscious mind. In this state of concentration, mental distractions struggle to compete for your attention, but lose the battle.
It’s possible for you to capture this state of immersion to enhance your performance and maximise your refereeing potential!
At The Third Team I work individually and in collaboration with different professionals where I have developed workshops associated with Resilience and Mental Toughness Development to help referees. The workshops are interactive, where referees are encouraged to open up and share their experiences to help each other.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more about my workshops and how I could help you or your officials.
Referee Educator & Managing Director of The Third Team
Nathan Sherratt, Referee Educator, Resilience Trainer and Managing Director of The Third Team. A Mental Toughness Practitioner based near Durham, North East England.