3 Ways to Improve Focus

December 1st, 2023

The ability to gain and maintain focus through “the big game” is one of the most important skills an athlete can learn. If they struggle to block out distractions, their performance may suffer drastically. Coaches often pull athletes aside and tell them to focus, and athletes nod their heads in agreement, but does that athlete really know how to regain focus when it is lost? When emotions are running high, and thoughts about strategy and statistics are running through their heads, regaining focus can be extremely challenging. Here are three strategies one can use to improve their focus in a moment of pressure. 

The first way to improve focus is to improve one’s self-awareness around focus during their performance. Many athletes will attest that focus is not always lost on a consistent basis, and it is difficult to know when the loss of focus will occur. Thus, it is necessary to begin by gathering as many details surrounding the challenge of focus as possible. Keeping a log or journal before and after practices and games will improve one’s awareness. Answering questions like “what distractions take my focus away”, “does the distraction(s) have anything to do with lack of sleep or poor nutrition”, “is focus lost for moments or for an entire game” will give directions to what interventions to introduce and when to implement them.  

 Once the loss of focus has been narrowed down to specific situation(s) and/or other factors, the next step is to create and establish a focus routine. Much like a basketball player uses the same routine when they step up to shoot a free-throw, or a tennis athlete sticks to one service routine; implementing a focus routine will allow focus during a task or skill to become second nature. The goal is to notice when focus is lacking then use the routine to regain it. An example of this would be taking a deep breath, looking at one’s shoelace, and saying “focus” in one’s mind.  

Along with a routine, practicing imagery is an important skill to improving focus. Imagery is playing out skills or scenarios in one’s mind and using all five senses to recreate an experience in as much detail as possible. Imagine yourself going on a run down your neighborhood street. Take a moment to notice what you see. What do you hear – birds, cars, the music coming from your headphones. Take a deep breath in and notice the smells around you. What do you feel – both physically and emotionally? Finally, notice any tastes that you are experiencing. By incorporating all the senses, the experience becomes real and vivid. The more realistic the imagery experience, the more one will get out of it. Additionally, creating the image is practicing a form of focus, and thus, an athlete can both improve their focus as well as partake in another form of practicing their craft. 

Focus can be instrumental or detrimental in performance. When the pressure is on and it is imperative that one maintains their focus and concentration, will you know how to react? Implementing strategies such as self-awareness, a focus routine, and imagery may be the difference between a flawless performance and losing the big game. 



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