1. Preventing and managing distractions.
2. Focusing on the task at hand.
Both of these things are needed to improve your concentration in games. One without the other isn’t enough. Let me first talk about the importance of preventing and managing distractions. Obviously, it’s hard to focus when you’re distracted. The better you manage distractions, the easier it is to lock in on the task at hand.
The main way to block out distractions is not by resisting them, but by focusing more on the task at hand. The more you focus on the task at hand, the more distractions will fade away in your mind. However, there’s more you can do to manage and eliminate distractions. The first thing you need to do is make sure you don’t enter a game distracted with outside sources of stress. Many athletes have trouble focusing in practice or games because they are too worried about their grades, their relationships, etc. As an athlete, you need to put these worries to the side before games/practice so they don’t distract you from the task at hand. To do this, you can find closure with whatever is on your mind. If you’re worried about studying for an upcoming exam, you can tell yourself before a practice/game that there’s no benefit of worrying about your exam during practice. There’s nothing you can do during practice to help you prepare for your exam anyways, so you might as well focus entirely on playing your sport. Tell yourself to forget about it for now and worry about it once practice is over. A helpful mantra is “be where your feet are.” Also, to help prepare your mindset for peak performance and eliminate distractions, you can take deep breaths and clear your mind before games or practices.
If you can, try to resolve your issues before a game or practice. For example, if a conflict with your boyfriend or girlfriend is bothering you, try to solve the conflict before your game or practice starts. Once you settle your issues, it’ll be much easier to focus on playing your sport.
Whenever a distracting thought pops into your head during games, just calmly refocus on the task at hand. Getting mad at yourself usually doesn’t help you focus better. Understand that it’s impossible to concentrate perfectly during a game. All athletes struggle with distractions during games. The best athletes are able to notice them right away and quickly shift their attention back to the task at hand. Once they’re focused on the task at hand, they use their willpower to remain focused for as long as possible. To do this, they are constantly reminding and motivating themselves to focus. They also know how to intensify their concentration by paying closer attention to relevant stimuli. For example, they don’t just watch the ball. They watch the ball spin as it approaches them. This helps deepen their concentration and prevents distractions.
It isn’t just internal distractions that athletes must watch out for. Athletes also must deal with external distractions such as the crowd noise, trash-talk, or airplanes in the sky. You can block out these distractions in a few ways. First, like I said above, you can simply focus more on the task at hand. It also helps to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant stimuli. For example, you can tell yourself that an airplane flying in the sky is an irrelevant stimuli that you shouldn’t be paying attention to. But perhaps the best thing you can do to minimize external distractions is to not let them enter your awareness in the first place. To do this, you need what I call “eye discipline.” This means to keep your eyes focused only on relevant stimuli such as the ball and your teammates. Don’t even look at the crowd or the sky. If you don’t look at these things, you’re less likely to become distracted. Likewise, if your opponent is trying to get in your head, pay no attention to them. This will definitely help keep you focused. Also, you can put a towel over your head to help block out the noise while on the sideline. Whatever external distractions you face in games, do your best to put blinders on and block them out.
There are many more actions you can take to prevent subtle distractions from entering your mind. For example, to prevent distracting pain sensations from entering your mind, you can tape your injured ankles. To prevent the distracting sensation of thirst, you can drink water. To prevent the distracting thought of fatigue, you can make sure you rest and eat well before a game. To prevent the distracting sensation of overheating, you can put a cold towel over your head. To prevent anxiety from entering your mind, you can build up your confidence by training hard in practice.
In conclusion, improving your concentration in games takes two things:
1. Actively preventing distractions from entering your mind in the first place.
2. Using your willpower to focus on the task at hand as best as you can.
If you work on these two things, you’ll drastically improve your concentration in games!