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Attention in sports

Attentional Styles In Sports

Over the last couple weeks I have been focusing on the topic of focus. First looking at the myths of focus and then at how to maintain focus over an extended period of time and a concept called deep practice. This week I am going to go over the different types of attentional styles we each have that impact our ability to focus efficiently and effectively as well as how it impacts our attention in sports.

No other area of performance captures the attention of individuals more than attentional skills. On the surface the concept of attention appears to be something of a contradiction. It can be experienced as positive or negative depending upon the circumstances. You are paying attention when you are daydreaming and if you intention is to do some creative problem solving it is positive. However, if you are in the middle of a competition, you’ve got the wrong attentional focus.

Every form of attention has its place. The key, as we shall see, is the congruency between the demands of the situation and the attentional style you bring to it. One of the major problems for Olympic athletes who do not perform at their expected level is that they are “blown away” by distractions. Athletes are usually prepared for the physical performance, but they are sometimes not prepared for the multitude of distractions they have to face in competition. Their focus is everywhere, not on the task at hand.


There are a couple reasons why this can occur, one is stress, another is athletes who take their everyday attentional style into a situation that does not mesh with the specifics of the situation. Stress impacts our ability to shift attention styles effectively, because as stress and pressure increase we often automatically go to our favorite attentional style. We then get stuck there, and unless the situation demands that particular attentional style then we can get into trouble.


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