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UK Coaching Team
Talent and Performance Developing Mindsets

Understanding Concentration, Attention and Focus

In the third of a series of eight resources, Performance Psychology Consultant Philippa McGregor offers insight into the general confusion about the nature and mechanisms of concentration and clarifies explanations of ‘concentration,’ ‘attention’ and ‘focus’

The ability to concentrate on a task is central to many good sporting performances; whether this is focusing to keep improving and reach a personal target or trying to win a competition and maintain attention on what is required in the moment to succeed.

However, it is also a key skill for life and work, whether you are driving around a busy city or trying to write an important report.

As you read this article, have a think about some examples of concentration within your coaching.


  • Can you remember as an athlete or player yourself when you struggled and found yourself getting distracted?
  • Do you recognise this in some of the athletes that you coach?


Concentrating on specific thoughts, activities or features of the environment has been central to sport psychology given the importance of being able to exert mental effort effectively to achieve optimal sports performance (Moran, 2009). The psychological skill of concentration has been considered the ‘executive’ given that to some degree it controls all others (Karageorghis & Terry, 2011).  

Despite more than a century of research in this field, there is still a great deal of confusion about the nature and mechanisms of concentration, with multiple terms used interchangeably, creating ongoing conceptual confusion for those trying to understand this area of performance.

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