One of the biggest obstacles for todays athletes to overcome is concentration. It’s not usually that athletes aren’t focused, they just tend to focus on the wrong things. One of the best questions an athlete can ask a coach is, “what should I be concentrating on right now?” This questions allows the coach to really develop that players concentration and potential skill level. By giving this player 3-4 things to focus on, the coach is most likely increasing this athletes use of self-talk. Self-talk is the process of mentally talking to oneself. This is one of the most common techniques used to improve concentration. Here are some techniques to make self-talk beneficial:
2) Keep them in first person and present tense
3) Construct positive phrases
4) Say phrases with meaning and attention
5) Speak kindly to yourself
6) Repeat phrases often
Concentration can also be enhanced by implementing “thought-stopping”. Players can cope with negative distractions by stopping the negative thoughts before they harm their performance. It’s common for a lot of athletes to have negative thoughts during competition and practice. Think about all the situations in which negative self-talk has hurt your personal performance. Try and recognize which situations produce negative thoughts and why. Thentry to change those negative thoughts into positive motivational thoughts. For instance, as a pitcher the number four batter gets up and the catcher calls an outside curve ball. The pitcher immediately thinks to herself, don’t miss this spot or you’re going to get drilled in the face. To change this talk, she could instead think, hit the outside corner and let your curve ball break away; no one has a better curve ball than you.
1) Focus on the unwanted thought for a brief moment.
2) Then come up with a trigger word or action to stop the unwanted thought. (Ex. stop or physically snapping your fingers.)
3) Then proceed to focusing on the task you want to fulfill successfully.
Athletes can also reconstruct their thought processes by always using non-judgmental thinking. Judging a performance as good or bad can lead to generalizing behaviors. Instead look at a performance as is, without judgment; focus on what is making the athlete perform the undesired behavior and switch their attention to changing it. For a pitcher who is having a wild day, it’s obvious her control is off. Instead of thinking that she is a bad pitcher, she needs to notices that she is missing high, which means she needs to focus on using more wrist snap, and possibly shortening her stride. This will keep players from being emotionally distracted.
Remember, just like physical skills, mental skills take practice in order to master them.
Along with mental techniques, there are also physical things athletes can do to help improve their concentration. They can establish routines which can be used before or during an event to focus attention, reduce anxiety, eliminate distractions, and enhance confidence. Pre-performance routines have been proven to help athletes switch their attention from irrelevant cues to task relevant thoughts.
Practicing eye control can enhance focus on the task at hand. Athletes must keep their eyes from wondering into the stands, or looking at the runners on base while up to bat. “Keep your eye on the ball” is harder said than done.Athletes can also try developing competition plans. They can think about the next game and what they are going to do in certain circumstances. Similar to being in the field on defense, and preparing for what to do with the ball on the next play.
Over learning skills of the game to make them automatic, like we discussed above, can help athletes focus on mentally challenging aspects of the game. John Wooden explains it best: When learning to read kids must first learn the letters, and the sounds they make. Then slowly they can put these sounds into words, and soon sentences. However, in these early stages kids are solely focusing on the sounds of the words, not the meaning of the word, definitely not the meaning of the sentence it’s in, and surely not the book. Once they have mastered the skill of making sounds into words, they no longer have to focus on what each word is, they can read for comprehension and expand their minds with the books knowledge. Mastering skills in sports is the same way; once the skills are automatic athletes can open their minds to executing strategy, and outsmarting their opponents
Many athletes believe that focus and concentration are only important during games, when in fact, it is almost more important in practice; the phrase, “practice makes perfect”, explains how important concentration is in practice.
Quote of the day:
“Confidence, focus, composure”