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Focus

Common Focus Errors

There are several common errors to good focus:

  1. Failing to focus all attention on the essential elements of a task (focusing on too many things at once)
  2. Being distracted from important information by unimportant information
  3. Being unable to properly divide attention between all the important information

Distractions

Routines

Performance routines are, "planned sequences of mental or physical steps designed to assist the athlete in focusing attention on relevant stimuli" (Cox, 1998). These can be broken down into pre-shot routines, between-play routines, and post-shot routines. Routines are unique to each athlete, but they usually include the following parts:

  1. Imagery to visualize the proper technique
  2. Positive self-talk
  3. Thinking about previous successful performances

Routines may also include things like breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, or listening to motivating music. The key to a good routine is practicing it until it becomes automatic-this means at practice too. Lots of athletes don't take full advantage of practice, but it's called "practice" for a reason. It's the time to develop good habits so performance becomes automatic and you don't have to think about everything during competition. Successful athletes learn how to avoid overthinking their performance. Think about when you learned to play your sport and how much you had to think about every little detail - details that now just happen. Experienced soccer players don't think about dribbling the ball; they just do it. The reason they can? It's become automatic, and the best way to make a skill automatic is to develop a good routine and stick with it!

"In spite of all the distractions, remain focused on the job." -Reggie Jackson

Lots of things can get in the way of focus-crowd noise, weather, visual distractions, trash-talking opponents, anxiety, fatigue, and negative thoughts, just to name a few. With all of these factors coming into play, what can you do to improve your concentration? One strategy is to develop performance routines.

Courtesy of the United States Olympic Committee