To this day it is obvious to everyone the importance of psychological variables in sports performance and experience. It is difficult to explain from a technical or physical point of view that a team considered “small” eliminates a “big” team from the last house. The fact that a team goes from flirting with relegation to winning the League, the Cup and two Champions League finals cannot be explained if we do not allude to a concept other than psychology.
Nerves, motivation, pressure, camaraderie … are things that can decide an outcome, and all of them are likely to be optimized after mental training. One of the most important is which is based on concentration routines.
What is concentration in sport?
Concentration is the psychological variable involved in ability to hold attention in a particular stimulus. In sport, it is vital to put all our skills and knowledge at our disposal at the right time. This is what we colloquially call “being connected”.
There are several ways to train this variable. The most important thing is create artificial situations that may require it to be put into practice during trainingSince psychological variables are like a muscle, the more we use them, the more we will develop them (and if we stop using them, they will reduce their performance).
There are several dynamics designed to grab attention, but the most basic is the classic handkerchief game (each participant has a number assigned and must run for a handkerchief when a moderator sings that number, competing with the participant with the same number. number of opposing teams). The tenths of a second it took us to recognize our number can be the difference between getting the point or not for our team, like the tenths it took us to observe where a teammate is not scored in a game. . The session can be adapted to the sport in question replace the handkerchief with a soccer ball, basketball, etc.
The dynamics can be sophisticated with the only limit of everyone’s imagination, for example, dividing the field into three parts and setting different rules in each third of it (just play the first touch on the first, do not not return the ball to whom it happened to me in the second, etc.). In this way, we train the concentration muscle, prepare it for when we need it to its full potential in matches.
However, in addition to the training focus, there are strategies designed to invoke the moments of greatest need (throwing a free kick, a penalty, a serve …), due to the importance of the situation or its vulnerability to distracting elements. .
For this purpose, there are so-called concentration routines. These routines consist of a sequence of two or more simple behavioral actions, The last of them leading to this state of focus (eg placing left average, placing right average, bouncing the ball and throwing the basket on a free throw).
The underlying functioning is that of the association of stimuli, and for this reason it should be noted the importance of systematics in the formation of these routines, Since, in training, it is the athlete himself who causes this state of concentration after the sequence and, after many repetitions, the sequence will end up being associated with this state, being able to use it in the times when it is harder to focus on purpose during competition, similar to when a smell reminds us of a person or the song we have on our alarm clock ends up causing us to reject ourselves if we hear it at any time of the day. The most famous examples of elite athletic routines would be tennis player Rafa Nadal, before serving, or footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, before throwing fouls.
It should be noted that a routine does not have to be visible behavior, but can consist of a thought or phrase of self-dialogue.
The ability to focus our attention on every moment of the game can be a variable that makes the difference, and the dynamics or routine training in sports psychology is a resource that can mean added value between our team and the rivals.