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Balancing Your Focus: Process Over Product

When it comes to athletics, it is often difficult for athletes and parents to

know where the line between pushing too hard and not pushing enough is.

As a parent, what is the right thing to say when your child isn’t putting in the effort? And how do you appropriately encourage your child?

As an athlete, how do you avoid becoming discouraged when it seems like you’re failing and how do you push forward?

These are all questions parents and athletes will face sometime during their athletic pursuits, and without knowing how to maneuver these challenging questions and situations, the enjoyment and fun of the sport will quickly be removed.

Soar Tennis’ Founder and Head Coach of the University of Northwestern Men’s and Women’s teams, Matt Swigart, has implemented the effective principle, “process over product”.

Coach Swigart defines “process over product” as focusing on the individual steps and progressions of athletics, instead of the end goal.

Using tennis as an example, if an athlete is focused only on the product, like winning the match, losing a single point, making an unforced error, or any other challenge that comes up in the match, will only create a mental and emotional unbalance.

At this point, players focusing only on winning the match will likely start thinking something along the lines of, “I just lost that point. Now I'm probably going to lose the game/set/match and let my team down!"

Coach Swigart describes the other side, saying, “Players who understand Process over Product are focused on things they can control like hitting the ball the correct way, setting up the point well, and moving on to the next point quicker. They are able to overcome challenging stretches in the match because they're focused on what they can control, the correct process. Players who are strong in this area are often the ones who actually see the most success. When they do not see success through victory they certainly are content in how they played and competed!”

Process over Product is all about having a balanced focus. It’s not to say an athlete can’t think about winning a match or the end goal of a season, but without the balance of focusing as much on each practice and individual stroke progressions, the product will be much more difficult to achieve.

“Training children to be focused on the moment, learning the correct processes, and finding accomplishment in taking the correct process will position them for the greatest amount of future success (product) possible!”

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