Concentration and the ability to focus on the task at hand is one of the most important skills an athlete or business person can have. Some people are born with better natural levels of focus and concentration but the good news is that you can improve it with practice.  It is some referred to in the literature as attention (Summers and Ford, 1995) and has been defined as the ability to focus attention on task in hand and not be disturbed by irrelevant external and internal stimuli (Schmid and Pepper, 1986) or the ability to maintain focus on relevant environmental cues (Weinberg and Gould, 1999).

There are an infinite number (perhaps even more that that in the modern world!!) of stimuli in the environment and we have to concentrate on the most relevant ones to complete the task at hand and disregard all the others. Once an athlete is distracted by one of these irrelevant stimuli the loss in concentration and focus can cause the performance needed to complete the task to spiral out of control and prevent the task from being successfully completed.

Ahlete needs to develop selective attention and disregard irrelevant cues from their environment. Concentration is a learned skill of passively not reacting to or being distracted by irrelevant stimuli (Schmid and Pepper, 1986). Learn to Control the Controllables (See my previous blogs on this), i.e. control your focus on the relevant cues and everything doesn't matter.

How do we achieve this?

Use simulations. Practice being in the environment by simulating what will happen. Try to replicate as closely as possible the environment the competition in training so you are familar with the stimuli present and can focus on the relevant.
Use cue words. Develop cue words you can use to regain focus and allow you to focus on the stimuli that matters.
Non-judgemental thinking. Get in the present and forget about the past (it's gone) and the future (it hasn't happened yet!) and don't judge yourself, develop a clear mind.
Establish routines andDevelop competition plans to really focus on your preparations (things you can control) and the things that matter.