Exercise For Improving Focus
Sit back, get into a comfortable position and close
2. Think of a particular skill in your sport.
3. Imagine yourself performing that skill.|
4. Focus externally on developing a clear and detailed
image of yourself performing the skill.
5. Focus on the sounds you might hear as you perform
6. Focus internally on the sensations or feelings as
you perform the skill.
7. Finally, once you have a clear image of yourself
performing and feeling the skill, choose an external
cue to focus on and which is associated with the outcome
of the skill.
example, choose the back of the rim of a basketball
net, the bottom right or left corner of the soccer net,
the bull's-eye on a target, the mitt of the catcher.
As you perform the skill in your mind's eye, shift your
focus to this external cue as you perform the skill.
(Internal- External Concentration)
Participants are instructed to choose a partner.
2. The person who goes first must close his/her eyes,
tune in to some sensation, feeling, or thought, and
say something like "Now I am aware of a pain in
my leg," "Now I am aware of my breathing,"
or "Now I am feeling silly."
3. Then, the person opens his/her eyes and says "Now
I am aware of . . .," adding something that is
happening outside himself or herself. For instance,
he/she says "Now I am aware of the sunlight"
or "Now I am aware of your eyes."
4. Repeat the process - first an inside statement, then
an outside one - for a few minutes without a break.
If the person gets stuck, the partner should help out
by asking "Now I am aware of . . .?"
5. The partner does the concentration exercise.
6. Later, the exercise is repeated with the eyes open
all the time.
This exercise on shuttling is based on Syer & Connolly,
The ability to shuttle between internal and external
focus is necessary in games such as football where a
quarterback must focus on a set of broad external cues
e.g. the game unfolding in front of him/her, shift to
a narrow external cue (e.g. running pattern of the receiver,
and shift to internal focus in deciding on how and when
to throw the ball.)
Stopping And Replacing Thoughts
Sit quietly, close your eyes, relax, and recall any
situation that evokes negative thoughts that have affected
your sport performance.
2. Sense the feelings and actions that accompany these
3. Think "stop/, and immediately replace negative
thoughts with more appropriate ones. Sense the feelings
and actions accompanying these thoughts.
4. Think about how the feelings and actions differed
and how this experience relates to the competitive situation.
5. Record your responses in the chart on the next page.
Self- Talk And Thought-Stopping For Improving Focus
1. Negative thoughts (e.g. "I may lose this game
because...") are distracters of performance that
decrease the ability to concentrate and to focus on important
2. To become aware of negative thoughts the athlete must
first recognize their existence. They may be very rapid
and automatic. Personal awareness of these thoughts and
of their nature is very important in order to stop and
3. You may ask the athletes to 'listen' to their internal
thoughts the next time they have performance-related anxiety,
and to record them.
What are the thoughts?
o Under what conditions do they typically occur?
o How do these thoughts make you feel?
For Improving Focus
need to learn the following basic skills in order to
focus effectively during practice and competition:
Concentration - learning to concentrate for a period
of time on a particular object or cue.
2. Shuttling - learning to shuttle between internal
and external focus
3. Managing distracters - recognizing distracters to
focus, and learning to 'tune them out.'
can also use visualization, positive self-talk, and
thought stopping to improve focus. A series of sample
activities that can be used to improve focus are presented
below and in the following pages. Coaches and athletes
often find it relatively easy to adapt these activities,
and to create their own activities to improve focus.
Note: In order to avoid lengthy descriptions, some of
the activities presented in the following pages are
outlined as though you were leading a group of athletes
through them, while others are described as though you
were an observer.
Distracters And Focusing On Relevant Cues: Focus On The
Focus on the clock face and click your fingers every
2. Now click your fingers at 5, 10, 15, 5, 10, 15
3. Now try to maintain your focus and the finger clicking
sequence while faced with a distracting sound such as:
o hand clapping by others around you
o hand clapping and foot stamping by others around
you (increased distractions)
4. Athletes rarely have the luxury of entirely controlling
all elements of their environment.
5. There are always distracters of one type or another.
6. Some distractions occur naturally, others are deliberate
e.g. on the part of opposition or Spectators.
7. Recognizing and managing these distracters is a key
to perform successfully.
To Focus On Cues In The Environment
1 - The performer has a tennis ball and stands in
front of a group; he or she is instructed to throw the
ball to the person with one hand in the air. This person
has previously been designated by the coach or the members
of the group, but the performer does not know who he
or she is. On command by the coach, all group members
but one throw both hands in the air. The performer must
throw the ball to the individual with one hand in the
2 - Repeat the exercise - this time one person puts
both hands in the air but with thumbs tucked in. All
other group members also have both arms in the air,
their hands are open and facing the performer, and they
sway their arms backwards, forwards and side to side
slowly. The person instructed to keep thumbs tucked
into hands also sways his or her arms slowly. The performer
is instructed to throw the ball to the odd person out,
but no cue is given with regard to the nature of the
Discuss the conditions under which the person throwing
the ball had to perform. Highlight the impact of visual
distracters and looking for important cues in the environment
to make performance decisions.
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April 1, 2010