Distraction can come from a variety of places.
Internal distractions are mental diversions that take you away from practice or the game. Distracting thoughts might have nothing to do with the sport. The distraction might be worrying about an upcoming exam.
Often thoughts are related to practice or game, such as thinking about a missed shot or the defensive strategy.
Either way, internal distractions hinder your performance because they disrupt your mental focus on the game.
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External distractions are things around you that takes your attention away from the game or practice. It could be unwanted noise or visual distractions from a rowdy crowd, bad weather, or poor playing conditions. External distractions are frustrating because players and coaches have little control over them, especially for a visiting team.
Distractions take away from your performance potential. Fortunately, there are strategies to limit the negative effects of distractions. Each strategy’s goal is improving your ability to focus and concentrate. These strategies are highly individualized, experiment to find what works best for you.
Develop a Pre-Performance Routine
Pre-performance routines are all of the preparations for competition or practice.
A systematic routine includes anything that can effect performance – sleep, diet, physical and mental preparations, and travel. Many athletesincorporate music and physical movements into their routines toget them in the right mindset.
This develops a way to focus your body and mind, preparing it for the competition or practice. The components of your routine matter less than the consistency of the routine. It is important to have a plan stick to it for every competition and practice.
With a regular routine you will begin to fall into autopilot. This helps reduce distractions because you do not have to think about anything leading up to the competition or practice, allowing you to start with a clear and focused mind.
Overlearn Your Skills
Our brains can only handle so much information at one time. The brain gets overloaded if you get distracted by lots of different thoughts. Then, like an old computer, you simply stop processing information.
Try to limit the amount of thoughts going through your head during competition or practice. This allows the brain to think about the strategy or the opponen,t instead of about other less important pieces of information.
Overlearning the fundamentals skills for your sport means they have become automatic. A professional basketball player does not have think about how to dribble the basketball because it is an overlearned skill. The more skills you can make automatic, the less distraction and the more mental energy you can devote to the competition and practice.
Practice for Distraction
To overcome external distractions, practicing in game-like conditions is helpful. if you expect a loud crowd, scrimmage with lots of noise.
Just like practicing any other skill, practicing for distraction will get you used to environment so it will not be a surprise.
This technique is often used by college and professional teams to help athletes prepare for games. Teams will practice in bad weather to get used to the conditions.
One extreme example was a college football coach who prepared his team to play Boise State by painting the practice fields blue (Boise State’s field is blue.) Whatever you do, try to mimic the environmental distractions in practice so they will not affect you during the competition.
Each of these strategies must be tailored to the individual athlete. What works for you will be different than what works for me. It is essential to try out different components and combinations to discover what works best for your particular situation. Once you start training and honing your concentration skills, distractions will have less of an effect on your performance.