“Focus” is an increasingly important part of any sport, but for many athletes today, the concept is easier said than done. Not only the ability to concentrate on a particular goal, but knowing what the right goals to choose are.  Some might assume that constantly thinking things such as: winning, scoring, having a good game, or who their competitor is, are the right things to focus on before and during their games.  Constantly thinking about these things, however, can actually work against you and lower your confidence and, in turn, possibly cause you to choke.  The reason for this is that while putting all this stress of doing well on yourself, you actually put negative pressure, or distress on your body, which can completely throw off your game.  With that being said, you want to steer away from thinking those thoughts when preparing for a big match.  Mental focus in sports is a very important key to your success as an athlete, and I am going to tell you how you can begin to understand it and utilize it from here on out.

Sports specialists on the mental game call mental focus a “process focus”, the reason being that when you are focusing on the whole big picture and process of your game, you cannot constantly think about doubts of winning or anything else that may be distracting to you while you are playing.  While you may think that concentrating on avoiding making little mistakes in your game will help your performance, it is already starting to lessen your chance of success.  So what you really need to have is “sports confidence.”

Some of you may be thinking, what is sports confidence?  The answer to that question is simply this: you have to believe that you have the ability to successfully complete a physical task or skill in your sport of choice.  You must only focus on the thoughts that are relevant to you completing a specific task during your match, and understand that the other thoughts are irrelevant and just hurting your performance.  Some of the things that may sway our self-confidence in sports is what other teammates or fans say or don’t say to us.  When this happens, one thing to do is to draw your confidence off of others who are succeeding at the moment and just continue to strive to do better. Another effective thing to do is to have efficient practices that will motivate you and increase your physical skill level, including running drills, touches on the ball, free kicks, stretches and many others. Finally, once you are doing better and feel accomplished, you will begin to regain your self-confidence.

Additionally, process focus involves you letting go of thinking about the outcome of the pass, play, or game.  Like I have mentioned many times before, thinking of the outcome will only overwhelm you, in turn forcing you to mess up.  Players who use process focus simply use techniques, such as the six below to successfully help their game.  In this instance, we will use a pass in soccer as an example.

1.       You must think of a similar situation where you have successfully made that pass to one of your teammates.

2.       Practice a few swings at the ball before the game, at half time, or on the side lines to get your touch down right.

3.       Develop an image in your head of correctly doing the exact pass you want to make.

4.       Next, have one single thought in your mind when you are about to make that pass; think “perfect” or “accurate”.

5.       Then, have absolutely zero concerns about where the ball is going to go.

6.       Last and most importantly, make sure your complete focus remains on the process of preparing for that perfect pass you are about to make.