Focus is versatile and can be advantageous not only in all aspects of sports, but in almost all aspects of life as well. Focus enhances your ability to learn new skills and perform these skills without distractions. Focus is important during the learning process as it allows athletes to sustain attention on the most important aspects of new tasks.
How might we define focus? Focus is the athlete’s ability to sustain attention on an immediate task and remain prepared to react spontaneously to the situation with controlled intensity. Focusing attention works by the athlete ignoring or suspending attention to non-relevant cues and enhancing or highlighting more important ones. In this filtering process, the athlete is more capable of reacting to the most important parts of their environment. Both experience and good judgement are important to maximize the efficiency of any athlete’s focus. The more focused the athlete is, the more efficient they become at reacting and engaging.
Research has shown that the human mind is much more capable regaining focus on a single stimulus multiple times than it is to sustain vigilant focus on that one stimulus without distraction. Athletes who are at the peak of their game will likely utilize small distractions and refocus their energy rather than attempting to sustain uninterrupted focus for long periods of time. Brief distractions can be as simple as looking away, taking a breath (focusing on this), counting to 3, or getting a sip of water (if the sport allows it).
Creating performance rituals that focus an athlete to the right mindset of any task can be vital. Some athletes will dress themselves with their proper uniform in exactly the same way every time they are preparing to perform (in practice or competition) because this ritual allows them to remain consistent. Instead of hoping that they will perform a certain way, the focus of the ritual allows them to know they will perform how they have practiced.
Practice Techniques for Focus: 1) Incorporate as many of the senses into your focus as possible 2) Sustain focus on subtleties 3) Attempt to focus on one single thought 4) Use very brief distractions and re-focus 5) Develop performance rituals 6) Be patient and consistent
Sometimes athletes describe how their focus becomes so automatic that they are one with their environment. In their senses, they no longer have to focus because they simply react to everything as it occurs with controlled intensity. This is because their focus has become so acute that they no longer sense the non-relevant information, and therefore their focus is essentially perfected and no longer difficult to sustain or attain.