02. Experts Corner

The Secrets to Dominating in Your Sport Part 5 – Concentration

June 30, 2022

Champions have the ability to concentrate and use all their attention in the most demanding moments. When everything is else is in place, it is these moments that will mark the highlights in your sports career. If you've competed before, you'll know that I'm talking about competition. In those instances of high pressure to perform, you need all your concentration and attention to succeed. Here we will cover why training your attention and concentration is key to a strategy of winning.

Training Concentration – the Missing Link

Most athletes have very defined strategies. They improve technique, tactics, strength, fitness and other specific aspects of performance. But when it comes down to it, the brain dominates all of these processes. Cognitively speaking, we can do much more to improve our performance. Attention and concentration can be increased with the right methods.

Since we all have the capacity to improve our performance, our brain can be stimulated and prepared for the different situations that await us in competition. This is how we leverage our brain’s remarkable neuroplasticity. If you are a coach or an athlete, think about where you could have gotten to with more attention and concentration. Toni Nadal says that his nephew Rafael Nadal accepted the demands of competition, and repeated to him over and over again: "If you are not able to beat your rival, at least don't help him to beat you."

Rafael leverages every ounce of his attention and concentration in every point, with the result of morally defeating opponents who face him through his relentless commitment. The incredible shots made with 100% focus in this video are for real.

Competition – a War of Focus

When you increase your focus you dominate the situation. Dominating the situation leads to success, because you are in control. This control stems from a solid focus and a committed approach. To control your competitors and out tempo them, you need to be in a zone of pure concentration without distraction. Making the best decisions under pressure is what differentiates the champions from the losers. As Sir Alex Ferguson said before the 2011 Champions League final: "Concentration will be the key to winning the final."

In the end they lost 3-1 against FC Barcelona. It is clear that they did not find the key to defeat their rival. As soon as the English pressure dropped half a point, Barcelona took control of the final and turned the tables because their focus didn’t lapse.  

Champions dominate the situation under pressure because their attention is at maximum level. Executing your technique perfectly in situations of maximum demand, where the pressure is extremely high, can only be achieved when you are able to sustain a high level of concentration.

Champions master these situations under pressure because they are able to find the best solutions, getting into a state of flow so they can channel every action with clear focus. All they need to do is log in with their username: ‘attention’, and password: ‘concentration’!

Total Concentration – Overcome the Odds

The prediction of competition results through data analysis is sometimes thrown off because of the complexities of emotional and mental factors that come into play under serious pressure. For example, if we look at the 2022 Champions League semi-final match between Real Madrid and Manchester City, Real Madrid reached the 87th minute of play with a 1% chance of going through to the final.

However, the pressure of the Bernabéu Stadium and the conviction of the white team to never give up, ended up reversing the pressure from Real Madrid onto Manchester City. This commitment in the face of adversity caused Manchester City players to buckle and lose their focus on winning, instead becoming distracted by the fear of losing. Real Madrid scored 2 goals within just 1 minute of play. The match would then go to extra time, with Real Madrid advancing to the final.

Train the Cognitive Dimension of Performance

To succeed in today’s hyper-competitive sports culture, you have to ask yourself ‘What do I want to achieve - success or failure?’

If it is success, then committing to training like a champion should be your goal. One of the most effective methods to increasing your overall performance is to maximize your focus and concentration as much as possible, as this will impact all aspects of your training. Become more competitive in your sport in this way, and it will help you to reach your next level: the level of the champions.

At the International Center we help athletes start competing like champions by training the cognitive dimension of performance. When our athletes train visually, perceptually and cognitively, they increase their performance at the attentional level, processing information more accurately and efficiently, to make faster and better decisions with high levels of concentration.

In the following video you will see an Olympic Shooting athlete (Alvaro G.) preparing for his Spanish Championship through one of our custom NeuroTracker programs.

We accompany the athlete to his training area to see what needs he has, in order to specifically adapt his training in the best ways to simulate performing under pressure. This training approach uses a dual-task with 1 ball tracking to generalize an increase in his attention and processing speed at the exit of the plate. We also add an additional passive perceptual load called Optic Flow (the black and white tunnel).

With these combined modes we significantly improved the athlete’s visual cognitive processes and balance. The result led to Alvaro outperforming his past abilities to win silver in the Spanish Championship.

You can read the first 4 parts of this 6-part blog series here.

The Secrets to Dominating in Your Sport Part 1 - Execution

The Secrets to Dominating in Your Sport Part 2 – Injuries

‍The Secrets to Dominating in Your Sport Part 3 – Pressure

The Secrets to Dominating in Your Sport Part 4 – Preparation

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