Focus is a word that many people hear - ‘Focus on your work’, ‘Are you focused?’, ‘Where is your focus?’ But what does that actually mean?
Focus refers to the attention that we give to things around us. It is what our mind pays attention to at any given time. It can be directed to one thing for a long time, or a short time, it can flitter between things, it can be on something meaningful or less so.
Focus is also the subject of scientific study. It has been determined that focus can be internal or external. Internal focus happens when you pay attention to keys within your body. In a spot context, this would be your racing heart, your increased breathing rate, the muscle tension in your shoulders. It can also be focus on the words in your head and the visualization of the practice you have done as to the actions you are going to perform.
External focus happens when you pay attention to the factors outside of your body - the scoreclock, the crowd noise, the players on the field/ice. It is that focus that shows you what is going on around you.
Athletes need a combination of internal and external focus to be successful. It is best to avoid external focus on crowd noise, scoreclock (unless you need to know how much time is left), the distractions of the players around you. It is best to avoid the internal focus of feeling anxious, nervous, scared. But by focusing on the internal visualization you have done to prepare and the external focus of where the players around you are so you can avoid them and move fluidly around them will be helpful.
Focus can also be qualified as narrow or broad. Broad focus is when you concentrate on everything around you - the whole field, the whole stadium, the whole game. Narrow focus is when you concentrate on the specific necessary aspects - the empty space in the upper left hand corner of the net without seeing all the players in the way of that space. Again, a combination of both is needed and broad or narrow are needed at different times. You need to be broad focused to see where the players are, but narrow focused to see the empty space in the net.
Athletes should practice all kinds of focus and be able to switch between them and know in which situations their focus needs to be.
If you haven’t worked with your focus before, give it a try and see what you notice.
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Thanks for reading!
THP The Healing Path