Whether I have worked with Gymnasts, Footballers, Table Tennis Players or Triathletes, one thing has become clear, they all need to focus their attention on different cues at different times. When we think of the concept of focus the following terms are key, internal, external, narrow and broad (Weinberg & Gould, 2003).
Focus of attention in sport is often linked to how we can help athletes build towards specific performances, outcomes or results. So, what is realistic in terms of our expectations about focus, what athletes focus on? How focused they are and how long can they maintain that focus?
Sport environments provide athletes with a variety of choices in terms of what they decide to spend their conscious effort on. With all the choices and the amount of information that is available, it is no wonder that a lack of concentration or focus is identified when performances or results are poor. But, the challenge is understanding the direction and application of an athletes focus, and understanding the athletes need in relation to focus so we know when they need to switch off and relax.
Many people think of focus as concentrating on one thing for a long time. However, focus is the ability to attend to internal and external cues in your attentional field whilst also understanding times when you need to focus on one cue or several cues.
When working with athletes we need to help them understand the various options available to them in terms of where they focus their attention. Within this, an important skill is ‘scanning’, this is where athletes can understand and utilise the various attention options to ensure they match the environment they are in and outcome they are aiming to achieve. Here are two examples of scanning:
Here are two points to conclude that may help you in the future when you are thinking about your focus during practice or competition: