It seems to me that coaches tend to write off youth athletes who lack the discipline to focus through practice or games. Coaches seem to think that concentration is an innate skill and can’t be improved or changed. As a kid I remember hearing that the human brain could only focus for five seconds at a time, this immediately became my internal excuse for not paying attention in class. So I’m guilty of dismissing the possibility of improvement as well.
I’ve learned of Neuroplasticity: “The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.” This means that concentration can be enhanced due to our brains ability to undergo neuroplasticity.
Like I’ve said before, most coaches simply tell players to concentrate without teaching them how to do so. I’ve reworked my coaching language in an tempt to avoid doing this. I try to keep the words “concentrate” and “focus” out of my coaching vocabulary as much as possible. Easier said than done. I’ve begun to utilize a strategy I picked up in graduate school. I consciously create a concentration checklist for my athletes when I feel they are losing focus, or concentrating on the wrong aspects.
So what is a concentration checklist you ask? It consists of 3-4 physical or mental components needed to complete a skill. They are simple, short tasks which are easy to remember and repeat. A skill we are all familiar with is making a right turn while driving. A concentration checklist for this would look something like this:
1. Signal blinker
2. check traffic to left and right
3. accelerate and turn the wheel to the right side.
1. Lock wrist to the sky
2. Keep Elbow at your side
3. Think over the bucket in the hole
This checklist helps to keep athletes thoughts on the right path. I’m implying the need for them to focus more adequately, and showing them how to do it, rather than simply telling them they need to.
Consolidate the task at hand into three simple steps. It’s something simple that athletes can repeat to themselves to keep their mind and body on the right track.
Quote of the day:
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”