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Six Solutions for Poor Concentration

By Minnesota Hockey, 11/03/14, 9:15AM CST

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Can you imagine how many more talented hockey players there would be if kids focused on developing their skills with the same focused intensity as they play video games?

The way kids concentrate on video games is likely frustrating for many of you parents, but it's also kind of impressive for ages we often associate with a short attention span.

Kids become 100% engrained in the task they are doing while playing those games. The reason they are able to do that is video games do a great job of providing a fun activity with very few breaks in the action. Once kids start playing, they are constantly engaged in what they are doing. They make it easy for kids to focus by providing continuous tasks and immediate feedback.

In other areas of life, it isn’t as easy. Whether it is presentations at school or standing in line at practice, kids are exposed to many more gaps during other activities.  Those breaks give their mind the opportunity to wander to different subjects.

The ability to concentrate on one task or subject for extended periods of time is a skill that even many adults struggle with.  For kids, many times improving their concentration skills hold the key to development in all areas. Here are six ways to help your child focus better.

Set Short Term Goals

As outlined above, concentration is often fueled by engagement.  By having players set goals for themselves for each practice or even every drill, you can increase their focus level because you have given them a task to occupy their mind.

Memory Games

These have been popular games for decades, but they can be underrated as a learning tool. In order to be successful, kids are forced to practice their focus, concentration and memory. Each of these skills plays an important role in all facets of learning as they grow older.  Memory games are also fun so kids push themselves to improve.

Mental Imagery

Positive, mental imagery is one of the most frequently mentioned mental skills for athletes. Players that spend time visualizing positive outcomes of their performance before it starts have been shown to have more confidence entering the contest and produce better results. Mental imagery typically requires a solid foundation of concentration skills to be effective but is also a great way to improve them.

Short, Simple Reminders

One of the biggest mistakes people make is repeatedly telling themselves not to focus or think about a certain topic. This actually keeps that thought in our minds for a longer period of time. To counteract this, create a short, simple saying such as “Here and Now” or “1, 2, 3… Focus”.  When your mind starts to wander, rather than telling yourself not to think about those distractions, gently clear your mind and repeat your saying to help you return to the present.

Deal with Distractions

Whether it is someone walking into class unexpectedly at school or receiving continuous phone calls at work, everyone has to deal with distractions. Adults may need to learn to let phone calls go to voicemail or allow emails to sit in their inbox until later.  For youth hockey players, distractions can include everything from a poor call by an official to where they are going to eat after the game.

The key to dealing with distractions is to start small. Next time you are on the ice, work on ignoring or at the very least moving past little things that typically bother you such as getting hooked by your opponent. A good off-ice exercise is to avoid looking at the next person to sneeze or cough around you.

Make it Age Appropriate

There are a number of techniques and tips available to help kids of all ages enhance their concentration skills. To ensure the effectiveness of any exercise, it’s important for parents to understand where their child is at in their development. For instance, memory games are great for younger kids.  Teenagers, on the other hand, may be more interested and engaged in practicing mental imagery.

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