Princeton Women’s Basketball: The Process of Being Undefeated

Process Focus

Focus On The Process

In college sports, outcomes are everything. It’s all about wins and losses, your record, your score or your time.

If outcomes are so important to sports, why do so many sport psychologists, coaches and athletes talk about the dangers of focusing on the outcome?

Why do we constantly hear of the importance of focusing on the process?

Let’s look at a great example of focusing on the process: Princeton University women’s basketball team is undefeated, 27-0, as they prepare for the Ivy League title and NCAA tournament.

Much of the media has written about Princeton’s pursuit for perfection but the Lady Tigers remain focused on the process (one game at a time).

In preseason, Princeton women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart and her team defined their goal, “We’ve been focusing on an Ivy title all season long.”

The team views each practice and game as steps in the direction of their goal.

That’s not to say they don’t want to win every game or end the season undefeated.

Barnhart wants her team to seize every opportunity to grow their game.

BARNHART: “I’ve heard people ask, ‘Do you want to lose so the monkey’s off your back?’ I say you play to win every single game. We’re learning to be relentless and we’re learning to win.”

When you are overly focused on the outcome, a perfect season, maintaining an unbeaten streak can be emotionally draining. You become solely focused on not ruining the streak while your opponent is focused on playing the game of their lives.

Streaks end and performance is negatively affected when you lose focus on what is really important… playing the game.

Sport Psychologist Eddie O’Connor recognizes the challenge inherent in streaks.

O’CONNOR: “When athletes are on a streak of any kind, the challenge is to keep their focus on the game at hand. The context and pressure of winning/losing streaks can distract players from what is essential. So a streak could help or hurt, depending on if the athlete uses the streak to improve concentration or if it becomes a distraction.”

Paying attention to the process is all about having a singular focus: playing the game and not worrying about the result.

The key to positive athletic results is to focus on the process, the task that you are facing THIS CURRENT MOMENT.

If you play the right way, the results will take care of themselves. No one has ever worried themselves to victory. You need to work your way to victory.

Try these tips to stay focused on the process:

  • Tip #1: Have a game plan or a strategy for each game or competition. Ask yourself: “What do I need to focus on to perform my best?”
  • Tip #2: Suspend your focus on goals at the door. Instead of reminding yourself of your long-term goal, work for this moment. Recalling your long-term goal can create more pressure.

View each practice and game as a step in the journey and that each step must be the most important step at that moment.

Successful athletes have learned to boost concentration and eliminate distractions. We’ve created The Focused Athlete, Workbook and CD program to help you do this.

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