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Flow. 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.

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  1. Flow

  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 US 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 originally conducted by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian born professor at the 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. 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 it also 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 • A challenging activity that requires skill. • Clear goals and feedback. • Merging of action and awareness. • Concentration on the task at hand. • The loss of ego and self-consciousness. • Paradox of control. • The transformation of time. • An 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 watching 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 on the task-at-hand. • Impervious to distractions. • Into the present… “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 Question • Can athletes and coaches create flow, or does it just happen? DQ 1: Can athletes and coaches create flow? Why or why not?

  17. How to Maximize Flow • Fit the difficulty of the task to athletes’ skill level. • Maintain proper focus. • Forget time. • Relax and wake up. • Train for flow.

  18. Match Goal Difficulty toAthletes’ Capabilities Challenge vs. Skill Balance ? FLOW Goal 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. • Performers also require a high energy level to compete at 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. • 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 pre-performance routines to create, maintain and regain the flow-frame-of-mind. • Develop positive, confident thoughts and feelings. • 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. • If flow occurs, leave athletes alone and let flow.

  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 Questions • 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?

  27. The Flow Model Challenge High Anxiety Flow Skills Skills Average High Low Boredom Apathy Low Challenge

  28. Factors Facilitating Flow • Positive mental attitude: • Confidence. • Positive thinking. • High motivation. • Positive competitive affect: • Being relaxed. • Controlling anxiety. • Enjoying.

  29. Factors Facilitating Flow • Maintaining appropriate focus: • Staying in the present. • Very narrow focus. • Focusing on key points. • Physical readiness: • Being well trained. • Working hard. • Being well prepared.

  30. Factors Disrupting Flow • Physical problems / mistakes: • Physical problems. • Mistakes by self. • Mistakes by partner / team. • Inability to maintain focus: • Losing concentration. • Distractions / interruptions. • Negative mental attitude: • Negative self-talk. • Doubting self. • Self-critical attitude.

  31. Optimal Mental State for Peak Performance • 1. Self-regulation of arousal: • Energized but relaxed. • 2. High self confidence. • 3. Appropriately focused concentration. • 4. In control but not forcing it. • 5. Positive preoccupation with sport. • 6. Determination and commitment.

  32. Research and Flow • Ravizza (1977) 20 athletes in 12 sports. • Loss of fear – No fear of failure. • No thinking about performance. • Total immersion in the activity. • Narrow focus of attention. • Effortless performance. • Feeling of being in complete control. • Time – space distortion (slowed down). • Perceived universe to be integrated & unified. • Unique, temporary, involuntary experience.

  33. Research and Flow • Loehr (1984) 100’s tennis players • High energy (challenge, intensity, determination, and inspiration). • Fun and enjoyment. • No pressure (low anxiety). • Optimism and positiveness. • Mental calmness. • Self confidence. • Being very focused. • Being in control.

  34. Research and Flow • Garfield & Bennett (1984). • Mentally relaxed. • Physically relaxed. • Confident / optimistic. • Focused on present. • Highly energized. • Extraordinary awareness. • In control. • In the cocoon.

  35. Research and Flow • Hahoney & Avener (1977) US Olympics. • Gymnastic Qualifiers vs. Non-qualifiers • Finalists were better at: • Coping with mistakes. • Controlling and utilizing anxiety. • Higher self confidence and more positive self-talk. • More gymnastics related dreams. • More frequent internal vs. external imagery.

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