Any athlete knows the physical skill and talent it takes to compete. However, behind the most powerful athletes’ physical feats is an impressive mental prowess that is cultivated through mind training and aims to build the focus they need to achieve success. This is also known as focus training.
In his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman boils down attention research into a threesome: the inner, other, and outer focus. Athletes need to cultivate strength in all three and learn how to use the right one at the right time. In Goleman’s book, he describes these three types of focus as:
- Self-awareness (Inner Focus): This involves an emotional self-control in the form of recovering from stress quickly and managing distressing feelings, adaptability as circumstances change, and keeping an undistracted focus on goals.
- Empathy (Other Focus): This focus provides the foundation for interpersonal leadership competencies like motivating others and working in collaboration.
- Systems awareness (Outer Focus): This helps individuals monitor competitive threats with a focus that allows the formulation of smart strategies to overcome the competition.
Former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlon runner Bruce Jenner once said, “You have to train your mind like you train your body.” Working with the right psychologist can help you take your sport’s training to the next level. After all, we have all heard the cliché that sports are 90 percent mental, and only 10 percent physical effort.
A psychologist trained specifically in how psychological factors can lead to mental blocks, which can ultimately cause breaks in focus, can create a positive effect not only when treating the athlete, but also when treating the team as a whole.
The role of working with a trained professional to develop a focused mindset is to provide athletes with the indispensable strategies and tools that they can use to address all psychological factors as they arise (related to sports, but also within life), and thus diminish the negative impact they have on sports performance.
There have been noteworthy progressions in our understanding of the relationship between mental skills and athletic performance (1). While it has been found that precompetitive anxiety is the most often mentioned psychological issue facing competitive athletes (2), working with the right psychologist can help train athletes so that they are able to perform optimally in a way whereby anxiety is still present, but not detrimental to success (3). The athlete who is trained in focus thinking has the skills to handle the psychological burdens that can cause anxiety, thus minimizing the destructive effects of these psychological barriers.
Mentally tough players with the unique ability to focus in all three domains that are outlined by Goleman are more resilient, less vulnerable to mental failure, and more likely to sustain physical performance over the long training rituals and game days that are the reality of professional sports.
While working with Dr. Eliana Cohen Psychology Professional Corp. will not guarantee a gold medal at the next Olympic games, the trained psychologists at our practice will ensure that you are able to perform at a level closer to your absolute potential.
Within the work on focus and attention we offer:
- Neurofeedback training to learn how to meditate and get feedback on your progress. Our neurofeedback therapy allows you to track the number of times you recovered your focus, as well as how long you were calm, alert, and focused. Neurofeedback is an excellent tool to begin your practice.
- Working Memory Training: We have a scientifically validated training tool to expand your working memory or sustained attention.
1. Gee CJ. How does sport psychology actually improve athletic performance? A framework to facilitate athletes’ and coaches’ understanding. Behavior modification. 2010 Sep;34(5):386-402.
2. Hardy L. The Coleman Roberts Griffith address: Three myths about applied consultancy work. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 1997 Sep 1;9(2):277-94.
3. Hanin, Y. L. Individual zones of optimal functioning (IZOF) model: An idiographic approach to performance anxiety. In K. P. Henschen & W. F. Straub (Eds.), Sport psychology: An analysis of athlete behavior. 1995; 3:103-119. Ithaca, NY: Movement.