How many times have you heard your coach repeat, “Stay focused. Get focused out there. Focus on the game plan and we’ll win” and you just think they mean play hard? Or possibly ‘listen up when I’m talking to you’? Well, by the end of this post you will know exactly what the coach really means when they say FOCUS and you will know how to control it. Sounds good to you??!
So let’s start with this, what is concentration anyway? Not conceptually but actually. I want you to experience what it is. So we’re gonna go through some exercises…cool? First we have to understand that Focus has 2 dimensions: Vision & attention (external & internal). Let’s deal with the external first.
External Exercises (Vision):
1) Get an object (preferably your sport’s ball) place it in front of you. If you’re doing it now you can use the palm of your hand.
2) Look at it for 60 seconds. The objective is for you to tell me everything about the ball. How many letters are on it? How many bumps or dimples are covered in letters? Every mark that is on the ball. If you are using your hand, count how many lines are in your palm. 60 seconds….Go!
3) Stop for 10 seconds
4) After the pause. Place the ball(palm) in front of your eyes again but now I want you to use your periphery vision. How much of the room can you pick up while keeping the ball in sight?
5) Stop for 10 seconds
6) After a pause. *Place the ball in front of your eyes again and try to stare at the ball in the same way you did before? What is happening?
The feeling of the shifting vision is your external focus. What you are experiencing is your eye muscle shifting. If you use an exercise similar to this one, you can begin to strengthen your eye muscles and your ability to switch at will.
Internal Exercise (Attention):
1) Close your eyes
2) With your imagination, focus for at least 2 minutes on the word highlighter (it can be the word or a picture of a highlighter). Ready…Go!
What happened? I didn’t expect you to complete the entire two minutes so don’t worry. Did you experience the shifting from thinking about the highlighter to either 1) your feeling about the exercise or 2) some random thoughts: your friends, work etc.? Were you able to shift it back to the exercise at hand?
That’s the awareness we call attention! You can do similar exercises to strengthen your ability to shift your attention when necessary.
So next time a coach yells at you to FOCUS!!! You should have the strength of vision and attention to stick to their plan!