Focus. Concentration. Performance.

Playing In The Zone


Before getting in the zone, people are attuned to their habitually practiced and routine roles during play. During this time of relatively unremarkable play, they do not expect to play any better than usual. They are still in touch with their previous understanding of both how and how well they play and, thereby, with their pre-thematically sustained, sedimented biographical project of playing. At this point, people would not expect to be able to do something that was outside of their repertoire. Because of the ongoing sedimentation of past performances, they do not call into question either the sedimented self-understanding of their own skills or the ability to excel to the degree that their performance is dominating. At this point, there is no expectation of playing much differently than usual.

The sensing of a sudden, unexpected emergence of enhanced agency is predicated on the growing absorption in the process of play to the degree that otherwise distracting sights and sounds become unnoticeable. This absorption is the beginning of the transformation of the habitual player-agent. It is experienced as a more intense focus and concentration than would otherwise be expected. People feel protected and separated from the environment to the extent that they feel impervious to distraction. They did not know that they could concentrate so deeply. They may lament that they have not experienced this level of concentration more often and wish that it were an aspect of their habitual style. Because of this extraordinary concentration, people can later recall this specific instance with precision. In contrast, the specifics of routine play are quickly forgotten.

Interactive, motivational presentations of research findings to students, employees, groups and organizations can be scheduled. I am an Approved NCAA Health and Safety Speaker. All NCAA active member institutions or conferences are eligible to apply for a $500 grant (go to toward my presentations for department of athletics drug-education or wellness programs. All presentations include moment-by-moment accounts of the unfolding of the phenomenon taken directly from my research with Olympic, professional and amateur athletes.

Educational presentations involve an exegesis on the phenomenon of being in the zone and its importance for personality development, character formation and peak performance both on and off the field. For an excerpt from one of my presentations, please click here:

"While I was skating I thought, "This is my time, this is my moment." I could not even hear the music at the end. You are thinking to yourself, "My God, this is such an amazing experience, really beautiful."

World Championships Bronze Medalist, excerpt from Schlaudecker (2002)

"That night I don't remember even breaking a sweat. Usually you can feel the sweat dripping off of your forehead and all that stuff, but that night it was like there was a little force field around me, like a bubble that kept me at the perfect temperature. I didn't come off of the court dripping or sweating or anything. When it was over I realized I'd played the game of my life and didn't even feel hot."

NCAA Athlete, excerpt from Schlaudecker (2002)