A Guest Post by Dr. Jason Selk

What father doesn’t want his kids to develop the right kinds of skills so that one day they’ll rise to the top of whatever field they choose? The good news is, with the right training, there’s one key talent that every child can master. And it just happens to be the one that highly successful people can call up at any given moment.

It’s called focus.

Okay, I imagine that right now most dads are rolling their eyes. Kids are already overscheduled and parents are competing with play dates, the Internet and digital toys for quality time. How will they squeeze it all in and more?

But focus exercises are something you can do during any spare moments you have, even while you’re all on the way to soccer or hockey. And tying these mental exercises into this summer’s London Olympics is a perfect way to reinforce how focus can help generate great performances in the spotlight. That’s because many Olympic athletes use these same methods to mentally prepare for their events.

Here’s why being able to focus at will is so important.

*Focus helps counteract pressure.

*When children aren’t athletic stars, they’re more likely to play simply for fun or the for the experience of being on a team. These are valuable reasons in and of themselves. However, once children have gotten accolades for their playing ability, or have won trophies, suddenly all eyes are on them. There’s more pressure. The coach and weaker members of the team are now counting on them.

*Olympians who have won a medal or two face way more pressure in their future competitions. The competing players target them so those medal winners can’t rest on their laurels. They have new expectations to live up to.

Here are two quick exercises to help your children concentrate better. They take such little time that you can easily fit them in prior to sports practice.

The 100-second mental workout

 1. Center your breath. Breathe in for six counts, hold for two, and exhale for seven. An elevated heart rate, which goes hand-in-hand with pressure, results in the mind working less than optimally. This breath work slows down the heart rate, which counters the pressure.

2. Create an identity statement. Even youngsters can come up with meaningful ones, such as “I’m the best hardest worker on our team” or “I’m always successful at blocking soccer goals.”

3. Create a personal highlight reel. This exercise involves just 60 seconds of visualization. First focus on three things done well within the past 24 hours, such as completing homework in a timely manner or making a solid play on the field. Then focus on three things you plan to do well within the next 24 hours. That’s only 10 seconds apiece.

4. Repeat step 2.

5. Repeat step 1.

These 100 seconds are a superb way to help your children decrease pressure and mentally prepare for their games through better focus.

Define success by the process, not the result

Think about a baseball player in the batter’s box. If all he’s thinking about is, “I gotta get a hit,” he won’t. It’s what’s called the “paradox of the product goal.” What the batter needs to think about are the actions that will get him that hit – tracking the ball, the short swing and the follow-through.

The best way for kids to achieve a goal is to focus on two or three tasks. Science tells us that focusing on process is what brings results. In school, task focus works, too. Instead of being all about that A grade, have kids focus on reading each question twice, answering all the questions, and reviewing all their answers. Your job is to help your children tailor the tasks to their specific needs.

The bottom line: These strategies work for any child with a goal, be it sports or studies. When it comes to achievement, we’re all “players” in our own stadiums, whether it’s an Olympics year or not.


* * * * *

Jason Selk, Ed.D, trains companies and organizations – including the world’s finest athletes, coaches, and business leaders – on how to achieve optimal performance. He is the bestselling author of 10-Minute Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and Executive Toughness  (McGraw-Hill, 2011) as well as a regular television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC. He’s also been featured in USA Today, Men’s Health, Muscle and Fitness, Shape and Self.

About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.


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