Concentration can be defined as a person’s ability to exert
deliberate mental effort on what is most important in any given situation”
(Moran, 2004, p.103). There
are certain elements of concentration that are beneficial to master in order to
improve concentration. The athlete should work to improve their selective
attention, being able to disregard irrelevant cues while performing tasks and
being aware of other situations (Weinburg and Gould, 2007, p.367). Being able
to focus on the cues that matter, might benefit the athlete in freeing up
attention to focus on those cues that are important. Creating a situation of
greater focus on more important cues might help the athlete raise their
ability to compete and reach optimal performance and experience levels.
How can athletes improve concentration? One method is Cook’s Model of Concentration
(McGuire, 2012, p. 12). Cook's model is used to narrow
focus leading up to competition.
First, the athlete should observe everything around them during pre-competition.
As the competition approaches, the athlete begins to narrow their attention to only the relevant cues and stimulus.
This process takes much practice, but can help the athlete improve their ability to concentrate in a competitive setting.
As a result, the athlete is able to
disregard irrelevant cues, choosing to only focus on what is important for them
to compete and be successful.
The Spider Technique (1997, http://www.k-state.edu/counseling/topics/career/concentr.html#spidertechnique) The example: Hold a vibrating tuning fork next to a spider web. The spider will react and come looking for what is vibrating the web. Do it several times and the spider "wises up" and knows there's no bug and doesn't come looking.
To use the spider technique, the athlete must practice ignoring distractions in order to build the habit of unconsciously dismissing distractions.
When the athlete is completing a task, there should be small distractions the athlete should ignore and stick to their task.
The athlete trains their mind to ignore distractions that are not relevant.
The athlete may also find success through the use of self-talk.
Having a positive dialogue to help focus on relevant stimulus or self-instruction.
The athlete talks about what they are feeling and what they need to do.
They create cues to re-set their mind and work on different aspects of technique.
They also work to prevent negative thoughts from entering the mind.
When using thought stopping, the athlete should think of the negative "thought".
Then the athlete will use a cue word, such as "stop" and remove that thought from their mind.
With practice, the athlete will become more efficient at removing unnecessary thoughts from their mind, allowing them to concentrate on more relevant thoughts.