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Soccer and Focusing
By Karlene Sugarman, M.A.
Sports Psychology Consultant

Distractions are a big part of soccer, so players must learn how to handle them so performance isn't diminished. A loss of focus will usually result in lost opportunities, an increase in errors, and opponents taking advantage of your lapse. If you're not focusing 100%, you are not performing at your highest potential.

If your concentration is broken, or you have trouble regaining focus, there are a few ways to deal with this:

1. Focal points
These serve as a release to get rid of any unproductive (negative) thoughts. Pick a point on your field and have that be the place you go to when you lose your focus or are distracted. Focus in on that one thing (part on your uniform, goal post, etc.), and take a deep breath so you can regain your composure and put your focus back on yourself and the task at hand. Notice, the examples I mentioned are things that are very specific and will be at all fields no matter where you play. If you were to pick a specific sign on your home field, what would you do at away games? This is why it's necessary to pick something that will always be there, no matter where you are playing home or away.

2. Rituals
Rituals help to calm you down and focus on the task at hand. They provide consistency to your approach, which intensifies your focus and increases your confidence. You can have pre-game rituals as well as rituals for during a game. They give you a sense of control and stability in an unstable environment. Get pre-performance ritual/routine down before the season starts so that you're comfortable with it. Many athletes use changing into their uniform as a trigger to get ready to go play.

3. Other releases
After a mistake, pick up some grass and then "throw away" negative emotions. Or, prior to a game, go over to your bag and put your negative emotions in it and "zip it up." Be creative and find something that works well for you.

You need to be absorbed in the moment and forget everything else. The best competitors forget who they are competing against; they are just immersed in the moment the fun, the challenge, the here and now. To be successful you need to focus only on yourself, your teammates and getting things done that need to be done RIGHT NOW. Anything else will cause you to falter. If everyone concentrated on what they needed to do, the team as a whole would be much better off. Staying in the present and focused on the task at hand cannot be stressed enough. It will play a huge role in your achieving your goals!

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