Improving Performance with Better Attention

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By Kate Allgood

As a sport psychology consultant and an athlete who’s competed at the highest level, I’ve spent a lot of time understanding what it takes become an elite athlete. Here we will cover why attention is a skill that’s needed for anyone to be at the top of their game – and how it can be trained.

Attention and Performance

In the world of athletics, things are moving so fast that we need to be efficient and effective in terms of what we pay attention to. The information our brains take in predominantly comes from our eyes. Elite athletes use efficient visual search strategies, being very selective about where they place their focus.

Approximately 2 billion pieces of information per second enter our brain through our eyes. That’s a lot of information! Our brains can’t meaningfully take all that information in, so it also has to be selective with which information it processes.  This is one of the things that separate elite athletes from the rest. However, selective attention is just one of six areas of attention that are critical to sports performance.

  1. Selective attention – to filter out distractions and prioritize visual processing
  2. Visual pivot strategies – to consciously make optimum use of peripheral vision
  3. Distributed attention – to be able to process lots of information coming in at the same time
  4. Dynamic attention – to keep on top of things moving or changing rapidly
  5. Sustained attention – to be able maintain attention for an extended period of time
  6. Attention stamina – to be able to focus in, and focus out, over long periods of time

Honing Attention as a Skill

Attention is everything in sports. It is also a skill, one that can be developed and trained. The more you strengthen attention, the better you become. Attention, along with other cognitive skills, has opened up a whole new area of sport psychology where we use technology to advance our cognitive abilities. I will cover my approach next, but no matter what method you decide to use, make sure to include attention training into your regime. This will be key for performing how you want to, when you need to the most – under pressure.

I use NeuroTracker because it is a very effective tool for training all these types of attention, and it also uses a visual pivot. Based on over 20 years of science, it is one of the most advanced systems of its kind in the world.

Cognitive Training with NeuroTracker

Previously, I have written about cognitive training and what to look for in terms of setting up a regimen.  There are a lot of technologies out there, but after extensive research I find the best overall fit for my performance coaching is NeuroTracker.  If you’re not familiar with how it works, NeuroTracker is a tool using 3D technology that is designed to enhance your athletic performance.

Building Up Athletic Skills

NeuroTracker isolates the basic mental elements of awareness and focus because it tests attention through multiple object tracking. NeuroTracker overloads athletes by asking them to mentally focus at high speeds repeatedly. Through a scientific conditioning process, NeuroTracker builds up the raw tools for maintaining awareness and attention even in the highest pressure game situations.

There are several ways NeuroTracker training will help you develop your athletic abilities. Firstly, to make better decisions under pressure. Secondly, to anticipate actions earlier, and more accurately. Thirdly, to identify and focus on key opportunities more easily, improving your situational awareness.  And finally, to stay mentally sharp throughout a long season

Evolving Training

Training can also progress over time with dual-tasks.  This is a method for achieving the best results over longer programs. It involves incorporating increasingly complex motor skill tasks while NeuroTracking. For example, a user will first begin their program in a seated position until they have consolidated the basic training. Then a basic secondary task can be added, such as balancing.  Later on, physical exercise or sport-specific skills can be performed, all while maintaining focus on the NeuroTracker task.

There is no limit to what type of dual-tasks can be combined, which can be used to push performance to extremely high levels.

If you’d like to hear more about NeuroTracker training, you can watch this video.

 

About Kate Allgood

Kate was recognized as one of the best female ice hockey players in Canada. With a double Masters degree specializing in sport psychology, Kate set up Quantum Performance – a high performance coaching firm specializing in mental training. Providing solutions that work, her clients include everyone from professional, college, high school athletes and Navy SEALs to ironman triathletes and yoga enthusiasts. Kate is also a sports science author.

Check out Kate’s Quantum Performance Blog, and her books,

‘Get Into The Zone: The Essential Guide To High Performance Through Mental Training’

Fortitude: The Essential Guide to Building and Sustaining Mental Toughness

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