www.sportingbounce.com - Sporting Bounce
Posted 04/14/2020 in Category 1

Sport Psychology - Concentration and Performance

Sport Psychology - Concentration and Performance

From precision in movement to strategic decision-making, the ability to maintain focus is paramount. In every competitive arena, be it the soccer field or basketball court, concentration distinguishes champions from contenders. IN this blog we explore research and examples from sport on the importance od concentration.

Research into Concentration in Sport

It is clear that the ability to focus attention on the task at hand is considered important for success in sport. For example, McCaffrey and Orlick (1989) interviewed 14 top professional golfers and a comparison group of 9 golf course teaching professionals. The top professionals were more focused during tournaments reflecting a special depth of concentration compared with club professionals and were better able to cope with distractions. This is illustrated in a quote by one of the tour golfers interviewed who said “For my best rounds my focus was on the shot that I was hitting every time. Nothing else...” (McCaffrey and Orlick, 1989, p. 266). 

A similar study by Cohn (1991) reported that during peak performance golfers reported that they were highly focused and immersed in the task at hand. While a narrow focus of attention appeared ideal for peak performance the type of attention differed according to individual differences with some golfers preferring to focus internally, while others preferred to focus externally (e.g. on a specific target). If concentration is associated with good performers and good performances than conversely, losing concentration can have a negative impact on performance. This is illustrated in the quote below by Brad Gilbert, the coach of tennis player Andy Roddick.

“When Andy gets mad his game really suffers, so it was important not to get involved. If he stays calm and focused and keeps on doing what he is doing, good things will happen.”

The essence of concentration is captured  below in the quote by Ex-England Cricketer Geoff Boycott.

“The secret of concentration is not to let outside factors register. Be aware of them but keep them outside the mental bubble in which you are operating. Concentration is about channelling your mind into a specific area while directing your energies in one direction.” Geoff Boycott (cited in Butler, 1996)

Understanding Concentration in Sport

Losing focus on the task at hand can have a negative impact given the importance of concentration for sport performance (Moran, 1996). Yet, athletes never really lose concentration; rather it is redirected at an inappropriate source (Lavallee et al., 2004). Athletes with poor attentional focus are still concentrating - just on the wrong thing.  Importantly, there are a number of techniques that athletes can use to improve concentration, including self-talk, desensitization via realistic training scenarios or imagery, and the use of pre-shot routines and we will also explore these in more detail. The aim of all of these techniques is to ensure that athletes focus their attention on actions that they can control and are relevant to successful performance.

The sport psychologists who list on our site are very capable of working with you to help improve your concentration. Visit our home page to search our sport performance directory for the wide range of consultants we have.  

You will be able to find the right consultant to help you get your sporting bounce! If you have any queries or need some advice then please contact us and the sporting bounce team will be delighted to help.


Cohn, P. J. (1991). An exploratory study of peak performance in golf. The Sport Psychologist, 5, 1-14.

Lavallee, D., Kremer, J., Moran, A., & Williams, M. (2004). Sport psychology: Contemporary themes. London: Palgrave.

McCaffrey, N., & Orlick, T. (1989). Mental factors related to excellence among top professional golfers. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 20, 256-278.

Moran, A. P.  (1996). The psychology of concentration in sports performers: A cognitive analysis.  East Sussex.  Psychology Press.


The quote from Brad Gilbert taken from an article by Ronald Atkin in The Independent on Sunday, 29th June, 2003.

The quote from Geoff Boycott taken from Butler, R. J. (1996).  Sports psychology in action. Oxford:  Butterworth-Heinemann.

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay