Concentration is particularly vital if you’re an athlete, as you’ll often find yourself in high-pressure situations where you need to focus. Follow the example of your sporting heroes to improve your concentration. If you watch the best sports stars, they focus on the important things and maintain this focus over a sustained period of time. Despite this narrow focus, they are still aware of the situation, and they can shift their focus when they need to in order to perform at their best.
Cricketer Garfield Sobers, the great West Indies bowler, famously described concentration as “a shower—you don’t turn the tap on until you want to take a shower. You don’t walk out of the shower and leave it running. You turn it off and turn on when has to be fresh and ready when you need it.” In other words, successful athletes learn techniques to concentrate their minds and have task-oriented focus in close, competitive situations.
The importance of concentration in sport cannot be understated. It can be the difference between winning and losing, crossing the line first or 0.3 seconds later. There are many successful athletes out there, and even amateurs, whose physical ability is very similar to the best players in the world, yet they don’t reach the same level of success. The difference is their ability to concentrate and control their attention. Those highly successful players are the ones who can shut out distractions.
Tips to effectively concentrate in sports:
- Put in deliberate, mental discipline and intentional effort.
- Prepare to concentrate, rather than standing around and waiting for it to occur.
- Adopt a “just do it” mindset.
- Discuss, think through, and rehearse strategies beforehand.
- Focus on only one thought at a time.
- Concentrate on actions that are accurate, relevant, and under your control.
- Stay in the moment—don’t think about how your favourite NBA team is doing.
- Be ready to re-focus as focus can be broken at any time.
- Be prepared for auditory distractions such as crowd noise, aeroplanes flying overhead, or public announcement systems.
- Be prepared for visual distractions such as flags waving or flashes from cameras.
- Focus on the process, such as technique and proficiency, rather than the outcome.