The ability to maintain focus on a specific task or object is concentration. The ability to move that concentration depending on the activity and task at hand is focus. They go together when dealing with sport distractions and are equally important to success.
Sport Distractions Strategies
There are 4 types of focus and they all work together depending on what you are concentrating on at the time.
Internal Focus is focusing is sort of kin aesthetic. Actually feeling the movement in our muscles or concentrating on how we are feeling is internal focus.
External Focus is focusing on what is happening around us and not inside ourselves. The play that is happening, the spectators, the ball, the tennis racket.
Narrow Focus is focusing on something specific such as the ball only, the spot you want to hit when you are serving the tennis ball
Broad Focus is focusing on more than one thing at one time such as focusing on the base runners when throwing to first base or having to be aware of your space in gymnastics events.
During sport we will generally be using 2 types of focus at one time. Narrow – Internal, Narrow – External, Broad – Internal, or Broad – External. Take some time and experiment with the different types of focus and see if you can identify them.
The number of potential distractions during competition are enormous. Opponents, officials, parents, friends and even team mates can take our attention away from the task at hand. You can also be distracted by something that might have happened during the day or maybe you are feeling nervous about being new to the sport. From the beginner to the elite, the potential for distractions are the same even though the magnitude and potential consequences might not be.
If you are a beginner athlete who is dealing with distractions, you are perhaps distracted by your skill level. What if I screw up? Now how can you refocus that thought process back into the game that you want to enjoy with your friends. The use of mental skills like cue words and relaxation can be very useful. The elite and competitive athletes might be dealing with an international competition in which the results will determine of they will qualify for the Olympics. Wow…. a different level however the effect it can have is many times the same.
Focusing and refocusing is a skill that when mastered can be one of the best tools for staying “in the game”. Someone calling your name or the sound of a child crying because they are hungry or tired in the stands can take you right out of your zone pretty quick. Having skills such as looking at a spot on the playing surface and re zoning your thoughts into the game is a simple and effective tactic. Picking up the ball and tossing it in the air will allow you to focus on the ball and regroup your thoughts. Talking to a teammate is also helpful. Acknowledging the distraction and then consciously re-directing your focus will decrease the potential of that distraction returning.
There are different types of focus. There is broad focus which means focusing on more than one thing at a time. Seeing the whole sheet of ice as you are skating up with the puck and looking for a teammate to pass to. Narrow focus is focusing on one exact thing. When shooting the puck you are focusing on the wiring on the back of the net behind the goalie. Knowing the difference can allow you to consciously focus on what you need to during your execution of your skills and tactics. Take a look at your sport and see where you might use narrow or broad focus.
How can this work in your daily life in dealing with distractions? Lets say you have something coming up that you are worried about. Maybe a meeting with someone or you are going to be applying for a promotion at work. But you are also working on a task that needs to be completed on a deadline and it must be done well. The broad focus in this case would be that you are thinking about the appointment or meeting while you are attempting to complete the task at hand. A narrow focus would be acknowledging that there is nothing at this moment that you can do about the interview and consciously refocusing on your task taking that pressure and anxiety away.
How do you use concentration to alleviate distraction? Now that is a loaded question. How many times have you heard someone say to just concentrate. You have probably experienced sometimes that is easier said than done. What is concentration? It is almost the same as focusing but it is for a specific task. Precision sport is the easiest way to describe it….. as a cyclist, moving through the pack takes concentration because you need to look for cues that are going to give you information about the most efficient path that you will need to take to get ahead of the other riders. If you miss one of those cues you could crash or miss an opportunity.
Concentration can be even more difficult for a recreational athlete dealing with distractions depending on the skill level because there can be so many factors that can distract you. Then add the confidence level and you may find it even more difficult. If you are confident in your skills it is much easier to maintain your concentration than it is if you do not have confidence.