“The Zone” isn’t just a gimmicky restaurant created by the ESPN gods. It’s also a magical place where your mind needs to be in order to score a win. “In its simplest form, it’s the space that you’re operating in mentally and physically where you’re not thinking or over-analyzing and you’re producing the best you have to offer,” explains Dr. Michael Fraser, a clinical psychologist and chief of staff at Behavioral Associates in New York City. It’s the reason you don’t tell a pitcher that he’s working toward a no-hitter—you just want him to perform, not think. “You can't force yourself into the zone, but you can set the conditions for getting into the zone by focusing on the process, being confident and trusting your skills,” says Dr. Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist and founder of Peak Performance Sports in Orlando, Florida. Your ability to get in the zone comes from practicing your sport and your ability to stay focused exclusively at the task at hand. “Think only about the next move,” says sports psychologist Dr. William Wiener. “Anticipate what you might do next or where the ball might go.” When you’re visualizing the game—and not what you might have for dinner later—that’s when your body starts on autopilot and you’ve officially navigated into “the zone”.
How to set the mental conditions needed to perform at your highest level