Q. I have heard about centering and how it helps with concentration. Can you explain this?
Trevor Michaels, Lancashire
A. Centering is a way of focusing the mind and body to be ready to work at the appropriate moment. It clears the mind of all thoughts, therefore allowing the shot movement to be automatic (a sub conscious reaction).
One example of this is on the tennis court. One of the top lady players always walks away from the service line and takes a breath before she turns back and stands ready to serve or to receive the ball from her opponent. She has trained herself that this action will put her mind and body in ready mode to see and hit the ball. This is called centering, and there are many different ways of doing it.
The one I have used very successfully over the years is the breathing technique. I think about my breath whilst inhaling and whilst exhaling. I complete this action as the person before me is shooting, and that tells my mind and body that it is now my turn to shoot, and to be ready and focused. This is called a triggered response. I also combine the breathing with a shoulder shrug, to allow me to feel how tight my shoulder muscles are and to then relax them so the muscles are ready to move onto the target.
Centering using breathing needs to be practised like any other routine. The more you practice the breathing, the more instantaneous your focus will become – getting to the point where you do not actually have to breathe, only think to breathe, and in less than a nanosecond your mind is ready for the few seconds that it takes to have your shot.