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Don't Be Distracted

Ways To Improve Focus

What is focus? It is defined as the mental energy allocated to certain cues. But in swimming concentration and focus -key ingredients to success- are often concepts misunderstood by athletes. Athletes tend to think of concentration as the ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time, but it is much more complex than that.

To understand concentration, you must first understand the term- attentional field. Sports psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor says, "Attentional field is everything inside of you, such as thoughts, emotions, and physical responses, and everything outside of you, including sights and sounds, on which you could focus. Focus is the ability to attend to internal and external cues in your attentional field."

Poor concentration is focusing on irrelevant cues in your attentional field. Having a wavering attention span is part of most swimmers practice experience. Those bad habits can follow you to your meets. Identifying your focus style is an important way to improve pre-race anxiety, control negative self-talk, and boost self confidence.

Internal Focus- Swimmers who tend to over-think their thoughts and feelings. They are distracted by things outside of their swimming and have trouble refocusing on the task at hand. They perform best when they are totally focused on swimming during practice and meets.

External Focus- Athletes who rely on external cues whether in practice or competition and can be easily distracted. They perform better when they don't think too much or become too serious about swimming. Contrary to the belief that not being serious will stop an athlete from performing their best, swimmers with external focus lose confidence and become anxious. They perform their best when they're not spending too much time thinking about their sport and simply allow their natural athleticism to shine through.

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