Understanding a Player’s Lack of Focus
Players losing Focus in key moments of a match can be a complete mystery and utter frustration for managers and coaches across multiple sports. Here I look at why your players may be losing their focus, and the ways in which you can avoid it.
The more you understand the individual and their current state, the more you’ll be able to understand their lapses in judgement
What is Focus?
Focus is the ability to put 100% of your mental capacity into a task for a certain period of time. This means not being distracted by other tasks or other people, or daydreaming of where you’d rather be.
The key to focus is being able to concentrate, without knowing it. When we’re asked to concentrate on a task, what we’re actually being told is to make sure we’re not thinking about anything else, which at the time can make things more difficult, because the reason we’re not thinking about the task in the first place is that there’s something more important occupying our brain’s capacity
Although we can complete different tasks at once, it’s impossible for us to put a high level of focus on more than one task, any of our brain power that is being used on the other task is simply taking away from the task we’re trying to focus on
When are we most focussed?
There are a few criteria that need to be in place for us to have 100% focus on any task. Not all of them need to be in place at one time, but the more you have, the longer you will be able to stay 100% focussed. These criteria are:
- Understanding the task in full and what is being asked of us
- Knowing the reason we are being asked to do the task and also understanding that reason
- Trusting the person who has asked us to complete the task
- Having the knowledge or skill available to us to complete the task
- Having a high level of desire to complete the task
- Having a clear head, free of distractions
- Being free of all previous failures that may affect your performance
Understanding why they a player may be losing focus
Perspective – Football coach’s perspective when trying to improve a player’s focus
Situation – Your player is playing well but loses concentration during pivotal moments in the game
There could be multiple reasons for the player not being able to focus on some of the aspects that you have asked them to complete. Let’s presume this player is a defender, who is perfectly fine on corners & set pieces, but can lose concentration when the ball is open play and your team has been attacking at the other end of the pitch, your opposition has started a counter attack and this individual is now out of position against his opponent, leading to your team conceding a goal
The questions you need to be asking are based on the criteria set above:
Does he understand why this task is being asked of him?
Although this may seem like a very obvious question, if he doesn’t believe this to be his role in the team and that it should be covered by another team-mate, then even sub-consciously he may not want to complete it. Therefore his mind will not follow-through with the task and before he’s realised it a split-second too late, he’s out of position. We need our sub-conscious mind to be in full agreement with the tasks in order to go into auto-pilot and take swift actions
Developing trust between yourself and your player & helping them to understand your logic of decision-making will help them to follow your requests and appreciate the reasons why.
Even if you can’t come to an agreement after a discussion, at least they’ve been able to voice their concern and you can address the issue in a different way to make sure they follow your guidance
If he trusts you then he will follow the guidance no matter if he believes it to be right or not
Does he have the skill to be able to complete the task?
Perhaps he feels overwhelmed by the task and is therefore worrying so much about getting it wrong that he stops his natural reactions to the situation. This can then cause a delay in taking action, and the opposition player to get the head start he needs to make the difference
If the player had been honest about his concerns in advance then a slightly different plan may have been able to be devised to ensure this didn’t happen. Perhaps a deeper line of defence for a slower player, or a player hiding an injury, would have negated this issue occurring
Does he have the relevant desire to complete the task?
One would hope all players would have this desire but often, they may be willing to sacrifice the team in order to get their viewpoint across
Perhaps they’re being played out of position and they want you to know that they don’t want to play there any more, by pretending they can’t do that task
Desire has to come from wanting to play for the team & the club, any other thoughts about other clubs or potential transfers will take away their focus on the task and the desire to complete anything they don’t deem necessary
Does he have anything else on his mind?
We’d like to think we know everything about the players – but if they don’t tell you it’s bothering them then how would you know!? Regular issues could include:
o Problems at home with friends/family
o Injury they’ve been putting off and not explaining in full
o Interest from other clubs or their agent putting other thoughts in their mind
Being free of all previous failures
This can apply to historical experiences, but also in-game mistakes / mis-judgements
It’s important for you to let them know the importance of them following through with the task and the ramifications if they fail to follow them. However, you also need to make sure they do not let any of these mistakes dwell on them for the remainder of the game and cause further upsets
How to improve their focus:
The best way to improve a player’s focus is to deal with the problems in advance of the game, do the relevant preparations, and make sure everybody is on the same page.
As you can see from a lot of the points above, a lot of the problems come from either a misunderstanding of the task or a lack of desire on the player’s part to fully focus on these tasks. Both of which can be dealt with before-hand.
The more trust you have built up with your players, the more issues they will open-up about in advance, allowing you to be confident they have their full focus on the game.
Practicing specialised techniques such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) can also have a huge benefit during a game. To simplify NLP, it states that by visualising the lapses in concentration in advance, the player can then work through how they may affect him. They would picture the match, picture themselves losing concentration, and then have a physical anchor (such as pinching their right shoulder), which would then bring them right back into the moment and focussing on the game. This is a great method but needs a lot of work in advance and also requires a realisation from themselves in the game that they may not be 100% focussed.
Richard Simpson | Director at Summit Peak Performance Mindsets