Imagine you have a nail in your left hand and a hammer in your right hand. You know you want to drive the nail into the two pieces of wood that are lined up in order to hold them together. You have to hit the head of the nail several times into the first piece of wood and through to the second piece of wood until the nail is all the way in. So, do you have that image in your head?

Sounds simple, doesn't it? And yet, what is going to happen if you don't focus and pay attention to the task "at hand"? Well, you will miss the nail completely, hit the nail incorrectly and bend it, or possibly hit your hand and break a finger. Not good.

So, if you want to be an effective lacrosse player, you have to "nail it". You have to be able to focus and pay attention to the task right in front of you. It's about letting go of all the distractions around you and within you that could take you away from simply seeing what you need to do at that exact moment. You don't blow up emotionally or get sucked into the verbal taunting from the opposing team. You don't keep replaying in your mind the mistake you made several minutes ago or keep complaining about a ref's call against you or one of your teammates.

To get you to immediately refocus, maybe, you give yourself two quick verbal cues like "check" to prompt you to look for what is being offered and any possible opportunity, and "choose" to prompt you to see the potential for a play and pursue it. Other tools that you can use to help you nail it is to take a deep breath and only focus on the breath. Or you simply put a smile (mouth closed) on your face. And, if nothing else, create a mental image or visualize what you want or plan to do.

If nothing else, you "nail it" when your mind is on what you want to do or achieve, when your mind is on your personal strengths, when your mind is the present moment, when your mind refrains from complaining or blaming others, when your mind is clear about your expectations, when your mind only concentrates on what you control. Remember, just like trying to hammer a nail into the piece of wood, if you aren't focused and paying attention, you are going to make a mistake or miss a great opportunity.

"You've got to be 100% there. If you are only slightly not there on a big mountain, it can cause you to fail or get in trouble."
Ed Viesters - No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks

"I squeeze my focus until it's airtight."
Dan O'Brien - Clearing Hurdles: The Quest to be the World's Greatest Athlete


Guest Post by Anthony Lanzillo

Anthony is a sports counselor and mental skills trainer. He has developed and presented mental skills materials to student-athletes at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels in such sports as lacrosse, football, soccer and basketball. Besides creating his own mental skills blog for athletes (Reaching Your Mental Peak), he is currently writing articles and posts for eleven different sports websites and blogs.