Training Sports Focus
When you perform your best, one of the defining characteristics is likely that you’re focused. This is true no matter what sport you play or what position you play. When you perform at your highest level, you are locked in.
There hasn’t been an athlete I’ve worked with who’s said otherwise. When we are trying to define their peak performance mindset, pretty much every one of them includes focus. That’s because, for you to play your best, you need to be focused.
Knowing that, why is it so hard to stay focused during games? Because there are a ton of things that pull at your attention and cause you to become distracted while you play.
While we can’t do much about the distractions, what we can do is improve your ability to manage your attention in the face of such distractions. And that is done by training your focus as an athlete.
What Causes Athletes to Lose Focus
When you lose focus, it’s not necessarily that you’re not focusing, but rather that you are focusing on something you don’t want to be focusing on.
This helps a lot when trying to improve your ability to manage your attention during games. Because you don’t have to find your focus…it’s not lost. It’s right there. You simply have to change what you’re focusing on.
But speaking of focusing on something you don’t want to be focused on, what are the main distractions athletes face when playing? Well, there are many, with some of the main ones including…
- Playing Conditions
- The Weather
- The Outcome
- Negative Thinking
That’s a long list, and we could get even more specific with each one. But the point is, you are faced with many distractions as an athlete. To control your attention, you have to strengthen your ability to focus. And that takes training.
Training Focus as an Athlete
As you read through the exercises and strategies you can use to train your focus, think about it in similar terms to training physically.
If you wanted to improve your strength, what would you do? You would consistently go to the weight room and perform strength training. It’s not something you would do once and then stop. The same goes for focus training.
You want to train consistently. And the more you do, the better you will become at managing your attention during games.
Now, the training program I’ve outlined below is made up of two parts. The first part is an ongoing practice (the best practice, I’ve found) for training focus. You want to be sure to be practicing it a little bit each day.
The second part involves some different strategies you can use to manage your focus during games.
Part 1: Training Focus Through Mindfulness
The first strategy is a practice you can do on a daily basis to improve your ability to control your attention. It involves the use of mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is the state of having your awareness completely centered in the present moment. Training mindfulness involves working to get into a mindful state. And the reason it helps with focus is because when you’re in a mindful state, you are fully focused on what you’re doing.
That’s a great way for your mindset to be when you’re competing!
The training of mindfulness involves centering your attention into the present moment (in the case of mindfulness meditation, on your breath). Then, when you notice your attention drifting (so you begin thinking about something else) you return your focus onto your breath.
It’s as simple as that.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you begin to practice mindfulness meditation…
- Start small, only meditating for about 5 minutes in the beginning.
- Try to meditate at the same time each day to make it routine.
- Meditate in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
- Don’t get upset if you have a lot of thoughts and have a difficult time focusing on your breath. That’s okay and the reason you’re training. Just stick with it and keep on working!
The more you practice mindfulness, the better you will become at controlling your attention. This method of training focus for athletes works well, but only if you stick with it. If you do, it will have a huge benefit on your ability to focus during games.
Part 2: Managing Focus During Games
Once you begin practicing mindfulness meditation, you will notice your focus becoming a little easier for you to control. You will especially notice that you’re able to recognize when you lose focus a lot quicker.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t still lose focus during games and have to face all the distractions that eat at your attention. So, what you can do is use some sport psychology strategies to manage your focus during a game.
- Use Self-Talk: through self-talk, you can control your focus during games by using positive self-talk phrases to manage against anxiety and fear, along with thought-stopping phrases to control your attention whenever you make a mistake or begin thinking about something you don’t want to be thinking about.
- Set Objectives: to manage your focus, it’s best to give yourself something specific to focus on. That’s what objectives help you do. They give you the opportunity to control your attention by focusing on a preselected objective going into the game.
- Focus on Your Breathing: very similar to what you do in mindfulness training, you can focus on your breathing during a game to keep your attention centered in the present moment.
Focus Training for Athletes
If you put into practice the two-part strategy outlined above, you will be on your way to strengthening your focus as an athlete.
But if you’re interested in a more direct and personalized approach, you need one-on-one mental performance coaching.
Through mental coaching, I will work with you to first identify the main things causing you to lose focus during games. Then, we will work through each of those causes, along with putting a similar strategy into practice to help you begin strengthening your focus.
To learn more about mental coaching, fill out the form below, or schedule a free introductory coaching call.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
Contact Success Starts Within Today
Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.
Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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