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Improve Focus and Concentration

What helps you improve focus and confidence? photo credit: Jump Start via photopin (license)

What helps you improve focus and confidence?
photo credit: Jump Start via photopin (license)

Sports psychology techniques help athletes improve focus and concentration. Add keywords, a simple yet powerful tool on how to focus your mind, into your training program. Keywords are quick affirmations which remind you of how you want to act as a winner. They create mental focus and are particularly useful with unfamiliar or counterintuitive behaviors.

Creating connections

When using keywords correctly you pair a simple word to a particular action to improve focus. The more you practice using your keyword to bring up a certain feeling, the more effective it will be. The keyword creates a new neural pathway in your brain, which is activated when you repeat it while doing the activity or in the situation. This form of muscle memory will improve concentration. By creating an association, the word develops a behavioral response.

4 Steps to improve focus and concentration

  1. Keep it simple. Often, we want to complicate things, but with keywords, simple will get you the best results.
  2. Think about how you want to perform. If you’re not certain, do you know what your coach is asking of you? If my coach wants me to work on something, I trust he sees something about what I’m doing that I can’t see. Tip: sometimes coaches give too much feedback and it becomes sensory overload, which easily leads to overwhelm. Choose to work on only one or two things at a time. You might even want to let your coach know what you are working on so that he or she can support you in those areas.
  3. Choose one or two words that have meaning to you about how you want to perform. Choose as few words as possible. We don’t have the capacity to track and maintain focus on a lot of different things. Changing one or two things is all you need to do at a time. So really focus on those one or two things you most want to work on.
  4. Try out your word (or words), connecting it to something physical and be willing to modify it, if necessary. As I said, using keywords is very simple. You’re now ready to start using them to help you be the player you want to be.

A mental shift

Improve focus and confidence for an "unfair advantage." photo credit: Winner!  Hooray! via photopin (license)

Improve focus and confidence for an “unfair advantage.”
photo credit: Winner! Hooray! via photopin (license)

One of my golf pro clients uses keywords to help with rushing. If he feels rushed early on in a competition, he stays rushed the entire game, which affects his score. Also, if he has a bad shot within the first three holes, it throws off his entire game. He never recovers his focus.

To help him improve focus and concentration, we came up with a ritual to remind him to breathe, relax and use keywords to refocus him on how he wants to show up. He uses his keywords, relax and present, before even taking a step onto the golf course. He also uses them during the game if he has a bad shot. His keywords help with improving concentration as a reminder to compose himself, put the last shot behind him, and refocus on one shot at a time.

Stay in control

I’m using keywords, as well as EFT, in my work with a teenaged tennis player who’s very talented and moving up in state rankings, but gets easily frustrated because of his high expectations. He gets angry and stops playing, and his focus and performance go downhill. His behavior was affecting his rankings and isolating him from the other juniors.

We came up with the keywords power and focus, which remind him how he wants to be on the court. These concentration exercises help to retrain his brain. He remembers not to take it personally when things don’t go his way. If he doesn’t play well, it’s not about him as a person; playing is a set of actions he takes.

As a result of using keywords, he became more relaxed, letting go of missed shots that normally would have frustrated him. As a result of using both keywords and EFT his anger response changed. He now has more fun and the other players on his team enjoy being around him. 

As I said, using keywords is very simple. You’re now ready to start using them to help you be the player you want to be.

You Can Do It

If you’re wondering whether you can successfully apply these tools on your own, let me tell you about the high school swimmer who came to one of my seminars.

He’d been ranked number 1 in the state, but went into a slump. It had gotten to the point where swimming wasn’t fun for him anymore, so he took two years off, which at his age is significant. He went back to swimming, but hadn’t achieved the times he knew he was capable of and that were needed to move him up to the next level, to compete nationally.

At the seminar, I talked about acting as if, visualization, keywords, and coming up with a game plan.

The following weekend, I got a call from his mother, who told me he won his next events and achieved the times he had wanted for himself.

If he can get those results after just attending a two-hour seminar, you can get results too.

Challenge: What would help improve focus and concentration? Choose either a mental game keyword, like remaining relaxed, or a physical reminder, like follow through. Choose one or two keywords as reminders about your performance. Practice your keywords during practice. This will help solidify the associations, making them more effective during your competitions. Share your keywords below.

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