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Mental Training Tips: Concentration in the Moment

2013-U15-Nats-04It’s no secret, having the ability to concentrate and focus in competition is an essential ingredient to having successful performances. Concentration is nothing more than the process of paying attention. Therefore, if an athlete has the ability to concentrate when needed in intense situations, the better they will perform. That’s why I often hear coaches, parents and teammates imploring their athletes to “just concentrate!”
However, it often occurs to me when I am working with an athlete, they don’t fully understand what that means. Better yet, they don’t fully understand the what of concentration. In that, yes, athletes are paying attention and are fully engaged with their focus. But more often than not, they are paying attention to the wrong things. Such as, thinking about how they don’t want to make the same mistake they made earlier in the game. Or perhaps they are thinking about, “We are up by 2 with only 58 seconds left, if we can just hold on.” The athletes’ focus is simply not on “the moment.”
It doesn’t matter the sport, athletes get distracted by all types of things (i.e. crowd, opponents, etc) but one of the most common where athletes tend to not perform at their best is when they are simply not in “the moment.”
As our physical arousal levels go up, our attention span narrows, and if that attention is focused on anything but the task at hand, it is not likely the athlete is engaged fully “in the moment.” They simply are unable to process relevant information efficiently. As athletes get fixated on past mistakes or get caught up in a possible future outcome, they are unable to simply concentrate on the present and are unable to perform at their best.
I believe Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda said it best: Mental Training Tip: The 3 R’s.

By following these steps players can greatly influence their ability to stay “in the moment.”

  • Recognize when you are not thinking about the task at hand and take action.
    Example: An athlete catches themselves thinking, “What if they score on us and we lose?
  • Regroup by putting an end to broken concentration.
    Example: An athlete might state, “stop thinking about the end of the game, because there is still 3 minutes left!”
  • Refocus by directing attention back to task at hand.
    Example: An athlete can ask themselves, “What is my task? What is most important?”

Jared Ocana, M.S., is a Mental Skills Coach and Adjunct Faculty at Westminster College in the Human Performance and Wellness Department. Besides working with student-athletes at the school in 17 intercollegiate sports, Ocana also provides coaching and training to individual athletes along the Wasatch Front. To connect with Jared, or have questions or comments, visit his website: or follow him on Twitter: @MindCoach_O

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