Next to having confidence in yourself, being able to focus when it is most important is one of the more vital skills that you should have at your disposal.
Any time that you see one of the top athletes on the field, you can physically see the kind of focus that they have. The “in the zone” look that their eyes have and the increase in performance they have when they have gone into that zone.
For sports psychologists, focus and concentration are two different things. Concentration is a broad idea, while the focus is narrowly defined as shorter duration moments of intensity, although the same concepts are going to apply to both of them here.
What Is Focus? Before we dive into how sports psychology can help you beat your problems with focus, it is important to understand exactly what we are talking about here.
Focus is, in a matter of speaking, your own ability to put your full attention to whatever you are doing and block out any distractions that are surrounding you. High-level athletes are able to control this and make use of it when they need it most. They have perfected the art of knowing what to focus on and how to do it.
Feeling The Flow
When you have great levels of focus you will be able to tune everything else out and start to only focus on the task at hand. In sports, though, that often means that you don’t have to do the actual thinking about the task. Your body simply does everything that you have trained it to do, moving the way that you are supposed to move, without having to actually tell your body to make the right moves. It is the ultimate surrender to your training when you have this kind of focus.
What Prevents You From Focusing? Of all of the things that get in the way of your focus, there are a few things that can be more problematic than the rest. Read through these and then take a good look at your own problems with focus. Are any of these issues?
Being Focused On The Outcome
Whenever you are practicing your sport or competing, it is important that you not be focused only on the outcome. Doing this will cause you to lose your focus and
break down your performance. It is great to have an expected outcome for goal purposes, but when you are in the middle of performing it should be the last thing that you are thinking about. When you are playing your chosen sport, you should always be focused on the present moment and what is happening, not worrying about the future.
Removing this single limitation can have a powerful effect that improves almost every facet of your performance both on and off the field. Practically anything can become an exercise in meditation.
Being A Slave To Your Emotions
Being emotional is not something that you should be worried about if you are trying to play a game in any sport. Emotions are a part of everyday life, but they don’t have any place in the middle of a game. When you start thinking about emotions and feeling them, your body will respond in a corresponding way, giving rise to tension, a clouded mind, and a lack of the ability to move forward. If you make a mistake you have to just accept it and move on, you can’t leave your emotions to tell you how that mistake should make you feel.
Thinking About Off-The-Field Life
This is similar to letting your emotions get in the way. Your family relationships, issues with friends, thinking about your day job, or any other kind of stress should be left off of the field. If you find that you have so many things to think about in your daily life that it bleeds into your sporting ventures, you might need to look at ways of reducing them to manageable levels.
Improving Your Focus
There are a lot of different ways that different sports psychologists recommend, but there are a few that have been proven time and time again by professional athletes and everyday people alike.
Meditation is one of the most beneficial things that you can do for your overall mental health, but research has found that it is particularly helpful when it comes to focus. The kind of laser, zen-like focus that meditation provides is something that very few things can compete with.
There are perhaps dozens of different forms of meditation, but the most well researched is simply known as mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness practice is a simple thing that almost seems like you’re doing nothing at all. In short: Find a place that you will be able to sit without interruptions for about twenty minutes a day. It is important to have the same place every day since it will help train your mind.
Sit down on a pillow or something else that is very comfortable. Close your eyes and start to focus on nothing but your breathing. Feel the air come in through your nose and go back out as you exhale. You will have lots of thoughts coming into your head while you are trying to do this, but don’t worry about them. Gently bring your mind back to your breathing. Imagine you are on a raft and your thoughts are still there, but they are just floating past you without your input. Do this for twenty minutes a day and you’ll start to notice that when you practice you are more in the moment and clear-headed than you have ever been.
This is an easy way to stop focusing on the outcome when you are doing anything. When you are practicing, work on focusing on just the thing that you are doing. Feeling the ball in your hands, your feet on the ground, and the fresh air will help you start to learn that these are the things you should be thinking about during competition.
This is almost like a form of meditation, it will help you learn to feel the moment and understand everything that your body is going through. It takes practice to do this, but the payoff is well worth it the first time you find yourself in a game and realize that all of your thoughts are centered on the task at hand and nothing else.
Routines are what make humans function at their best. Most professional athletes have a routine that they do before they perform because it tells your body that you are about to focus on a sport, rather than anything else in your life. This can be as
simple as spending some time by yourself focusing on your breathing or it can involve elaborate gestures and phrases.
It is entirely up to you. The thing that you need to make sure of in any case is that you do this every time you practice and every time you compete. As your focus grows stronger through other methods this will become even more valuable and even stronger.
These are all things that will improve your focus not only in sports but in every aspect of your life. It is incredible what you can accomplish when you are living in the moment. Everything that you do will be more enjoyable and you will have an easier time handling whatever life throws at your way.