How To Keep Focused In Training

Do you ever find yourself distracted, or having a lack of focus in training? 

When you are training, just as the body is being challenged, so is the mind. The problem that arises is that our brains are taking in thousands of pieces of information all the time from different sources. Not only are we constantly taking in the present moment, but we are also thinking about yesterday, thinking about things we need to do tomorrow and a variety of other things. With all these different thoughts going on at once, it can often lead to a few crossed wires, which causes us to sometimes forget things, or remember things differently. 

Let's take a different example where this same issue may happen. Think of the last test you had to study for in school. You're sitting in your room, book open, trying to absorb the information on the page, but in the background, you've got the champions league game on and your favourite team is playing, and also you've got your phone in your hand, scrolling through instagram. Your brain is in 3 different places at once, taking in information from each place. Then you wake up the next day, go into your exam, and the only thing you can remember from your study session Is the shock of Barcelona being knocked out by A.S Roma.

So what happened, why can't you remember what you studied?

Your brain doesn't have the ability to be 100% focused on multiple things at once, therefore your attention is being divided by all of the things you are surrounded by. So during your study session, you had the TV, your school books, and your phone sharing the attention, so you were only focused on your studies 33.3% of the time... But let's be honest, 80% of your mind was ACTUALLY on the champions league, 15% was on instagram, and realistically only 5% of your attention was on studying ;)

Now let's talk about this in relation to your training sessions. If during your training, your mind is drifting in other directions "What shall I have for dinner, I wonder if that girl has texted me back yet" etc. You are dividing your attention, and the attention you put on other things, you take away from your session. Especially when working on the technical areas of your game, touch, shooting, dribbling; you need your mind to be fully engaged to build that connection between your body and your brain to develop muscle memory that produces consistency in your technique. Muscle memory is the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement. But the only way to get to that automatic level is through hours and hours of focused, deliberate training.

So how do you stay focused in training? Here are some things you can do:

Mental Priming: Something that really helps me is to spend 10-15 minutes before training simply thinking about what I want to get out of the session. I call this mental priming. This gives you a chance to think only about the training ahead. If you're on your phone right up until the very second that your training begins, there will often be some overlap in the mind, and you'll still be thinking about whatever it was you were just looking at so you won't be fully focus.

Audio Cues: When you feel your mind starting to wander during a training session, and catch yourself thinking about something other than the task at hand; have an audio cue. This is just something you can say out-loud to regain your focus. In fact, I like to use the word "FOCUS!". So if I'm going through a drill and start getting distracted, I will literally shout the word "FOCUS!" at myself. It might sound kind of weird, but it really helps me get my mind where it should be.

Structured Sessions: If you show up to the pitch with no idea of what you want to work on, you are giving yourself every opportunity to be aimless in your approach. You'll probably find yourself just juggling the ball around, taking a few free kicks, then feeling like you didn't get much out of your session. Instead, have your session fully planned out, with each drill, and how long/how many reps you are going to spend on it. Not only will you feel more accomplished, but you will more likely attack each drill with more intensity, knowing how long you are going to be working on it.

Listen to music: I left this one until last, because it may not be helpful for everyone. For some players, listening to music before/during training really helps them block every distraction out so they can fully engage with their session, but for others it can actually be distracting. For me, it works great. It shuts out any noise going on around me, and allows me to go into my zone. Try it out and see if it works for you. 

I'll leave you with this:

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus".

Crush yesterday's standards.