It's important for an athlete to stay focused whilst on the field; any lapse in concentration can lead to underperforming. Becoming stressed during competition can lead to you reacting negatively - mentally and physically - and then affects your performance abilities. This can happen by becoming tense, worrying about the outcome and being distracted during the competition.
There are four main qualities that are considered to be important mentally for a successful performance, which are named as the 4 C's: concentration, confidence, control and commitment.
If an athlete lacks in concentration then their athletic abilities could potentially not be efficiently or effectively applied to the task. Common distractions can harm your concentration, such as mistakes, anxiety, fatigue and negative thoughts.
Regain focus by setting process goals for each session, match and competition. By having an overall goal to work towards, you'll keep focus on the task in hand and it'll help keep you concentrated on the field. Try and use a trigger word to help refocus your attention to your goals, as well as performing a structured routine before each game and competition, both providing a useful aid for concentration.
Confidence results from the comparison between the goal and the ability to fulfil this goal; the athlete should have self confidence if they believe they can achieve their goal. This stems from having a positive state of mind and an athlete with self confidence will never give up even if things aren't going to plan, show enthusiasm and be positive in their approach.
Improve your self confidence by using techniques such as mental imagery, to visualise good performance and how to cope with different scenarios. Goal setting can also bring feelings of success; if an athlete can see that they're moving towards their long-term goals, then they'll grow in confidence!
The ability to maintain emotional self control and remain in a positive frame of mind is key to success. By not maintaining a positive approach and experiencing emotions such as anxiety and anger, this can lead to a deterioration in performance, lack of concentration and a loss in confidence. Relaxation is a technique could be used to reduce anxiety, again using mental imagery and concentrating on breathing regulation, as well as the belief that relaxation will help.
A successful performance depends on the athlete being fully committed to numerous goals, both personally and as a team, whilst juggling these alongside many different aspects of daily life. It can be hard for an athlete to be fully committed to a sport and the goals that have been set for it and then also be committed to normal day-to-day life, such as work and having a family. Commitment can often be undermined by injury, anxiety and a lack of enjoyment for sport, leading them to become not fully focused.
By setting numerous goals with the athlete, this will raise their feelings of value and therefore help them become more committed to achieving them. It's also important that your athletes have a top support network around them, made of their family, friends and even coaching staff, giving them plenty of support and positive feedback, especially through the tough times of injury and poor performance.
For more information, take a look at this interesting factsheet.