The Orion

Q&A: Staying in focus while in action

Julie Ortega

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Johnny Sanchez, center, competes at a cross-country meet. Sanchez said that the cheering and energy from the crowd at a meet helps him push harder to win. Photo courtesy of Johnny Sanchez.

Distractions are everywhere: school, work, home, games and most certainly in sports.

The Orion asked a few Chico State athletes questions about how they deal with distractions.

Johnny Sanchez — Year: Senior, Major: Kinesiology, Sport: Track and Field

So as an athlete how do you deal with distractions during a meet?

Sanchez: Dealing with distractions has become easy for me because (of) the number of meets I have competed in, and also the experience I have from running in many national championships have all helped me calm my nerves and just focus on the race as if it was just another one. Just being confident and thinking positive and visualizing the race. Once I know I am fit, I use it to rely on and think positive, which helps greatly with putting good performances together in big meets.

Does the size of the crowd at a meet affect you or your focus?

Sanchez: The size of the crowd in running helps, in my opinion. All the energy from the crowd cheering helps a lot. Lots of competitors feed off that energy to perform well. Especially in cross-country or track, when we have the Chico chant going it is always so helpful.

Germay Tesfai —Year: Senior, Major: Sociology, Sport: Track and Field

What would you say your techniques are for dealing with distractions?

Tesfai: I guess I just block them out and just keep to myself. It’s just something I’m mentally able to do. I’ve been doing it since I was in third grade. I might have to put on some headphones and listen to music, but most of the time I don’t need it. I’m just so focused on the race. I think about my form. I think about my breathing rhythm. Taking it one step at a time, one lap at a time. Being in control of myself during a race because you could easily fall off and die or one little mental break and you’re done.

How would you say the crowd affects you?

Tesfai: Positively. Your adrenaline is just running, pumping and you’re in the best shape for that day, fitnesswise. And you just use all that to help you, and it actually helps me. Hearing the crowd roar, hearing the crowd chant, hearing our Chico fans, our Chico team doing the Chico chant with a mile to go. It just gives you that little bit of extra energy you need to get you through it. Especially with one lap to go with everyone yelling and cheering, it’s actually encouragement, not a distraction.

What would be the strangest thing someone has ever done to try to distract you?

Tesfai: Just yelling stuff, chanting. Some stuff that might bother me is when they’re yelling at their teammates in the race that I’m not looking good, or that I look like I’m dying or falling off the pace. I might hear that and use that as motivation to sharpen my form, or I might even be feeling good and that’s just what it looks like — like I’m tired. So then in my head I’m like, ‘OK, yeah, think that. Think I’m tired. Tell them that,’ and with a mile to go or a lap to go just take the lead and say ‘fooled you.’

Have you noticed an opponent try to throw you off your concentration?

Tesfai: Not really. They might bump you with their arms. The biggest things that people will do to try to throw you off the race is the other opponents will try to pick up the pace in the race. Make you pick up the pace with them. You just have to be smart in knowing whether to go with them or not.

Matthew Tarr —Year: First-year, Major: Mechatronics, Sport: Soccer

What techniques do you have to stay focused during the game?

Tarr: In the locker room before (the game) all the guys kind of just have their headphones in, or we have the speaker plugged in and we’re just listening to music, and that helps ease the nerves a little bit. Before the game I don’t really like anyone to talk to me because I like to be in the zone and then during the game there’s not really distractions. You kind of just are so in the zone you don’t really hear anything.

Have you noticed any distractions?

Tarr: When we go to away games the fans like to mess with us. But it doesn’t really get to you at all. Like especially Sonoma State. They wear shirts that say ‘Chuck Fico’ and just yell at you every time there’s a foul or something. That’s our worst rivalry for soccer.

What about at Chico? Do we have any fans trying to get in the heads of other players?

Tarr: Oh yeah, there’s a few. They’ll just yell at them. We don’t really have shirts like that but they’ll yell at them like ‘pussy’ if they fall down a flop. They definitely try to get in your head.

Julie Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or @julieOrtega_ on Twitter.

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Q&A: Staying in focus while in action