The Learning Process
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  Athlete Focusing Abilities

The ability to control our ability to focus is critical to success in academic subjects and sports
       An athlete's ability to focus is considered an important fundamental that must be present for success to occur.  Then why is it so many athletes are confused about how to focus to achieve peak performance?

       The reality is that we are only able to focus on one thing at a time. It is a misperception when we think we are focussing on a multiplicity of different things, What actually happens is that we attempt to rapidly change our focus one at a time and dart between the various ideas in our minds. As a result we end up spending very little actually time dedicated to any one idea. 

       The challenge for many athletes is to decide what idea needs to receive the primary attention. It’s tough to focus only on one point. It requires mental discipline to focus for any prolonged period. Most individuals are easily distracted and if we’re scared this can be exacerbated.

        Often an individual who is not feeling confident tends to over think the situation. This diverts our focus and causes us to over think. This experience is often referred to as ‘thought blindness'.  Thinking takes a relatively long time compared to the amount of time for the unconscious mind to instinctively react.

        In many sports there is time to make decisions such as deciding where to play shots and how to play their game tactically. In the process of executing the play, thinking tends to interfere with the performance. Our ‘non-thinking’, unconscious mind controls our movement.

        Has an athlete every ask you “How do I stop thinking negative thoughts?” The solution is simple - focus on something else. in reality it is very difficulty to avoid negative thoughts unless you can shift the topic in your mind to a positive alternative.

        One thing that olympic athletes have in common is their ability to focus on their task and tune out other things such as crowd noise.

        When faced with performing difficult tasks, it is important not to allow unimportant thoughts to intrude.  It is not easy for some individuals to learn such mental discipline. It is also important to learn  how to manage the environment.   

        Increasing our ability to focus can be acquired through practicing mental disciplines such as meditation, or physical disciplines such as T'ai Chi or certain martial arts.  Learning relaxation techniques also will help in the ability to focus. 

Is the ability to focus based in genetics or environmental causes?
       Focusing abilities vary widely in athletes. Some athletes seem to naturally be able to focus better than other athletes, even those who receive special training to enhance their focusing skills.

       Athletes need to cultivate the ability to focus the job at hand and blocking out all the distractions - press, TV, etc. Many sport psychologists teach their clients how to focus intensely through a form of self-hypnosis.

       Successful athletes tend to have psychological characteristics that were developed over time. Various individuals - coaches, parents, guardians, or a significant other person - usually are instrumental in the process.

       Psychological characteristics include: 
  • High Motivation and Commitment - These athletes were competitive and looked forward to and really enjoyed competing. Their competitive drive was fueled by an internal desire or intrinsic motivation to accomplish their goals, as opposed to external rewards.
  • Optimistic and Positive - Their optimistic personalities caused them to look at the athletic glass as “half full versus half empty.” This allowed them to remain positive when faced with difficulties and rebound more quickly when failures were experienced.
  • Positive Perfectionists - two types of perfectionism, adaptive (what we call positive perfectionism) and maladaptive perfectionism. The distinction between the two is important because adaptive perfectionism is associated with achievement and success, while maladaptive perfectionism is related negatively to mental health.
Adaptive perfectionists set high standards and like to be organized, but they are low on concern over mistakes, doubts about actions and concern over parental criticism (when young). Maladaptive perfectionists also hold high standards and like to be organized; however, they are also overly concerned with mistakes, have frequent doubts about actions and are preoccupied with parental criticism.
  • Uncanny Ability to Focus - ability to concentrate or focus on key performance related factors while effectively blocking out distractions
  • The Ability to Handle Stress and Cope With Adversity - have high levels of emotional control and the ability to peak under pressure.
  • Mentally Tough - resilience, perseverance and the ability to successfully deal with adversity.
  • Sport Intelligence - Sport intelligence is an interesting new psychological characteristic that includes:
    • The ability to analyze performance
    • Being innovative relative to one’s sport technique
    • A student of the sport
    • Makes good sport related decisions
    • Understanding the nature of elite sport
    • A quick learner.
        Some individuals increase their ability to learn by filtering out poor information the recieve from different sources. Focusing on what is useful advice can be a challenge as the quality the information can from range zero to 100% reliable.

Recommended Reading:

Tiger Woods and His ability to focus is a sport psychology  March. 23, 2010  When I watch Tiger Woods, or any successful athlete, their ability to focus is a sport psychology phenomenon!

Newsletter Article  Similarly, a significant other described his athlete's ability to focus, “ She has the uncanny ability to, no matter what the situation is, to focus in on the essential element.

The Corporate Playbook - Why Athletes Are The Right Choice  Athletes have the ability to focus and concentrate for key performance while effectively blocking out distractions, they have the uncanny ability to 'dial in' and exclude all non relevant information and other distractions.

The Focused Athlete - A 14-Day Plan for Superior Concentration  Concentration and the ability to focus under adversity is what championship athletes do best. It only takes one distraction to enter your mind for you to blow an opportunity.

Playing Tennis in the Zone  This is a result of the athlete's immersion and her ability to focus her attention to task relevant cues. This process works much like the transmission of electronic data.

Sports Psychology  This is the mental quality to focus on the task in hand. An athlete's ability to maintain control of their emotions in the face of adversity and remain calm is most likely to perform their best.

Improving Concentration and Focus, Sports Exercise, Problem  The ability to concentrate is key to an athlete striving to reach peak performance. If two athletes have equal skill and ability, it is almost certain that the one most able to avoid distractions is most likely to be successful.

PDF A Cross Cultural Examination of the Concentration   Measuring the ability to concentrate in a laboratory is not the same as in a high stress competition; however, unless athletes also have the ability to focus and follow through, it is highly unlikely they will be a consistent top performer.


Identifying, Understanding and Training Youth Athletes   The focus should be on helping young athletes develop skills they will draw on at an older age when they are actually ready to capitalize on sport specialization.

Athletic Focus & Sport Psychology: Key To Peak Performance   Dec. 9, 2010 When one considers an athlete's ability to focus, many would consider it important, maybe even fundamental.

Winning Management - Learning From Olympic Athletes   One thing that stands out with Olympic athletes is their ability to focus on their task and tune out other things.

College Athletes Have To Focus On What They Can Control   Use your athletic talent by focusing on what you can control - your ability.

Head games: How elite athletes keep their focus  "There are five mental factors," he said. "Motivation, confidence, ability to handle stress, focus, and emotion. The best athletes can harness those five areas."

News on Sports Psychology and Mental Training  Core Sports Performance is a wonderful hypnosis-based tool for the development of mental focus and emotional control - skills that all elite athletes possess.

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
Learning Considerations
PDF  Attentional Focus
PDF  Spatial Disorientation
PDF  Effects of Mood on Performance
PDF  Confidence through Motivation
PDF  Transfer of Learning Issues

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The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
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