The use of concentration routines in competition
To this day, it is evident to anyone the importance of psychological variables in sports performance and experience . That a team considered "small" eliminates a "big" going up the tie at home of the latter is difficult to explain from a technical or physical point of view. That a team passes flirting with the descent to win League, Cup and reach two Champions League finals can not be explained if we do not allude to some concept taken from psychology.
The nerves, the motivation, the pressure, the companionship ... are elements that can decide a result, and all of them are susceptible to be optimized after a mental training. One of the most important is which is based on concentration routines .
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What is concentration in the sports field?
Concentration is the psychological variable that implies ability to maintain attention in a concrete stimulus . In sport, it is vital to ensure that all our skills and knowledge are available to us at the right time. It is what we call colloquially "being plugged in".
There are several ways to train this variable. The main thing is create artificial situations that may require putting it into practice during training , since the psychological variables are like a muscle, the more we use them, the more we will develop them (and if we stop using them, they will reduce their performance).
There are multiple dynamics designed to exercise attention, but the most basic is the classic handkerchief game (each participant has an assigned number and has to run for a handkerchief when a moderator calls that number, competing with the participant with the same number rival team). The tenths of a second we take to recognize our number can make the difference between getting or not the point for our team, similar to the tenths we take to see where there is a teammate unmarked in a match. The session can be adapted to the sport in question replacing the handkerchief with a soccer ball, basketball, etc.
The dynamics can be sophisticated with the only limit of the imagination of each one, for example, dividing the field into three parts and setting different standards in each third of it (only playing the first touch in the first one, not returning the ball to whoever it has happened in the second, etc.). In this way we train the muscle of concentration, setting it up for when we need it to its full potential in matches .
However, in addition to training concentration, there are strategies designed to invoke it in times of greatest need (throw a free kick, a penalty, a service ...), by the importance of the situation or the vulnerability of it to distracting elements.
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For this purpose there are so-called concentration routines. These routines consist of a sequence of two or more simple behavioral gestures , the last of them leading to that state of concentration (for example, put the left half, put on the right middle, throw the ball and throw a basket in a free kick).
The underlying functioning is the association of stimuli, and therefore it is to highlight the importance of systematics in the training of these routines , since, in training, it is the athlete himself who causes this state of concentration after the sequence and, after many trials, the sequence will end up being associated with that state, being able to use it in the moments in which it is more difficult to concentrate voluntarily during the competition, similar to when a smell reminds us of a person or the song that we have in our alarm clock ends up provoking rejection by itself if we hear it at any time of the day. The most famous examples of routines in elite sport would be those of the tennis player Rafa Nadal, before serving, or that of the soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, before launching the fouls.
It should be noted that a routine does not have to be a visible behavior, but may consist of a thought or phrase of self-talk.
The ability to focus our attention at each moment of the game can be a variable that makes a difference, and the dynamics or training of routines in sports psychology are a resource that can mean the added value between our team and rivals.