Every day I watch athletes’ minds wander while I’m giving instruction. Hard working, motivated athletes who just can’t stay focused. My knee jerk reaction is to get angry, to take their mind wandering personally.
Then I remember the amount of distraction that these athletes have in their daily lives… social media, advertising, tv, and internet. Of course, they can’t focus! At what point in their lives have they been taught how?!
Next, I remember that everyone struggles to focus (at least sometimes) and that these athletes have just presented me with the perfect opportunity to teach a mental skill in the middle of a hard workout.
How to STAY focused. How to keep the mind concentrated on one thing. This is simple, but not easy.
Learning to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time is a mental skill that must be developed like any physical skill. Try listening to your favorite song while keeping your mind focused on just one piece of the music. It could be the beat, the melody, or the words. Count how many times you lose focus of this one thing in a period of just a few minutes.
Now, imagine trying to do that as a 16-year-old learning something new. The reason why an athletes’ mind would wander is starting to make sense…
So instead of getting mad at your athletes (or yourself) for not being able to stay focused, use this as a teaching moment to define what focus is. The ability to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time. Challenge them to stay focused on just one thing at a time throughout the training session.
Using this Mindset strategy, you’ve prepared the athlete to learn the physical skill and taught them how to develop a mental skill at the same time.