How to Stay Focused While Playing Sports

30 July, 2020
Learning to control your capacity for concentration is essential for any athlete. It plays an important role in athletic performance. Today, we'll offer some tips on how to achieve it.

Concentration is a fundamental psychological ability for athletes. Any sport requires the ability to pay attention for long periods of time, both during practices as well as competitions. If the athlete isn’t able to stay focused while playing sports, their performance will notably diminish.

A lack of attention can make all the difference in an athlete’s performance. To be able to maintain focus on the important things, an athlete has to understand the psychological variables that can intervene in their attention span. In this article, we’ll give you some simple tips that can help increase your attention span.

Stay focused while playing sports: establishing a routine

Routines are a series of actions that an athlete completes in important moments. In sports, routines help the individual mentally prepare for a competition.

The actions that make up a routine are unique for every person. There’s no manual or rulebook to establish them, it has to just be the things that help the athlete concentrate. On the other hand, it’s important to be aware of all the things that are distracting.

In addition, routines can help reduce anxiety before competitions. This is due to the fact that when an athlete engages in a sequence of known actions, the situation they’re in is perceived as more controllable and uncertainty is diminished.

Find your optimum level of activation

The “optimum level of activation” refers to the ideal physiological state of the athlete before, during, and after a competition. Finding this level means not beginning a competition too sleepy, nor too nervous. It implies that the athlete has found the sensations and thoughts that helped contribute to their best performances in the past.

Tennis player concentrating

Since it constitutes the base of any psychological process, an optimum level of focus is very important. Without this, other processes such as attention, decision-making, or communication won’t be effective.

Change your focal point

It’s impossible to always be aware of everything going on around you. Our capacity for attention is limited and can only focus on a few relevant stimuli. However, in sports, there are many changes happening all the time, which means our focal points are constantly changing.

According to Gonzalez Hernandes (2007), athletes need to forget secondary action details and concentrate solely on the finality of the action. For example, centering your attention on the technical details of movement when this is already automated can lower your performance.

Along these lines, one of the principal sources of distraction during sports are intrusive thoughts. These show up out of nowhere and the athlete doesn’t have control over them. To eliminate these undesirable thoughts, the psychological technique most utilized is “thought stopping“.

Take care not to place importance on errors


It’s normal to make errors during a competition, but keeping them constantly in your head is a large source of distraction. Competition is not the right moment to analyze your errors. These need to be studied only once the competition has ended and the athlete is in an appropriate emotional state.

Archery requires concentration

If you make a mistake during the competition, you have to be able to get this out of your head and not give it importance at that moment. You can’t change the past, so you have to keep your attention on the present moment. 

Equally, you have to reinforce the good moments. Positively reinforcing your desired actions increases the probability that you can repeat them and boost your emotional state.

The importance of staying concentrated while playing sports

Concentration is a fundamental pillar for good performance, both in training and in competitions. To stay focused while playing sports is a task that involves many factors. This means it’s not simple to maintain concentration for long periods of time. An athlete needs to practice and mentally train to be able to do it.

Finally, increasing your ability to concentrate doesn’t only affect your sports performance. The sport itself is capable of increasing this capacity and applying it to other areas of life

  • Hernández, J. G. (2007). Herramientas aplicadas al desarrollo de la concentración en el alto rendimiento deportivo. Cuadernos de psicología del deporte, 7(1), 61-70.