Sport is an activity to be carried out at any age, indeed it is particularly important for children and adolescents. But how do you get concentration in young athletes? The cognitive abilities of children are different from those of adults, so younger athletes need adequate mental training before physical training.
The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls higher cognitive functions, continues to mature until the age of 25. For this reason, it is necessary to take into account the concentration limits of younger athletes, to obtain the maximum and improve sports performance.
Although young people have a harder time concentrating than adults, that doesn’t mean something can’t be done about it. The age group between infancy and adolescence adapts better to changes and the ability to learn is much more proactive. In this article we are going to tell you some tricks for gaining concentration in young athletes.
How to increase concentration in young athletes
Eliminate any possible distractions
Young people, like adults, are distracted by the environmental stimuli that surround them. However, unlike adults, they have a harder time redirecting attention to what’s really important.
To avoid distractions, it’s best to reduce environmental stimuli and make sure they only pay attention to certain things. For example, in the case of football, the ideal would be for the coach to first explain the exercise and only later allow the players to train with the ball.
Conversely, if the players have the ball while the exercise is being explained, they are very likely distracted and not paying attention to the coach.
Explain the exercises step by step with demonstrations
The ability to remember spoken instructions in children is more limited than in adults. Conversely, younger athletes learn faster with visual demonstrations rather than verbal instructions.
In this regard, the coach must learn to recognize that the moment the athlete listens to the explanations, his degree of attention will drop. To prevent this from happening, it is best to divide the exercise into a sequence that alternates the explanation with the demonstration, in such a way as to teach everything visually.
In this way, not only will the athletes understand the steps, but they will also be aware of the transitions between them and how they come together to form an organized sequence.
Increase motivation during training
Motivation and concentration are closely related. It is very difficult for an athlete who is not adequately motivated to make an effort to stay focused.
To increase the motivation of younger athletes, a trick that works very well is to apply the Premack principle. This is based on providing an activity that the athlete likes as a reinforcement after making an effort during training.
Basically, in group training it would be allowing the team to play a game during the last few minutes, as a reward for making the mental effort to learn the rules of the game.
Routine improves concentration
Young people are very sensitive when establishing training routines and habits. They get used to it quickly and train better to avoid wasting time and distractions.
Routines convey confidence and allow people to anticipate what’s to come. In the case of sport, it is preferable for coaches to organize structured warm-up, training and recovery times and for athletes to get used to these dynamics.
Of course, there will always be unpredictable factors and one must be prepared to adapt to any changes that may arise. These routines need to be flexible and also have some room for variation.
Patience, the key to achieving the concentration of young athletes
Training young athletes takes a little bit of putting yourself in their shoes and accepting that although their level of performance may be similar to that of an adult, their cognitive abilities are not yet fully developed. For this reason, we must be patient and understand that the changes will not be visible instantly, but over time.
Finally, sport helps to increase the ability to concentrate in general. This means that it is also configured as a means of learning that has benefits for the mind and that helps young people to concentrate in other disciplines as well.