How to Get Your Athletes to Focus

by Brian Cain, MPM

Distractions, negative self-talk, and letting mistakes get to you are a sure way to derail your performance.

Athletes who succeed don’t do so because they evade trials. They are successful because they know how to overcome the obstacles that arise.

It takes a skillset to be able to overcome obstacles. As a coach, you can train those skills.


You train the physical part of your sport with drills.

I am here to teach you how to train the mental part of your sport.

Also with drills.

A highly trained level of present moment of focus and self awareness allows your athletes to block out distractions, navigate adversity, and perform consistently at their best.

If you know how to coach pillar 3 of my mental performance training, focus and awareness, then you’ll have a team of competitors who know how to stay focused.

The best way to increase your focus is to increase your awareness of when you are off task.  Awareness is the first step towards growth.

Here are two drills that I use to train the skill of focus and awareness:

(in this case, include the following)


Drill #1 – Concentration grids 

I learned this from Harvey Dorfman who wrote The Mental Game of Baseball. He said, if you want people to grow they have to follow a 3 step process: awareness, strategy, action. 

You have to educate your players to raise their awareness.

Then as a coach you give them the strategies that will take them from where they are to where they want to be.

Then they have to take action with you holding them accountable.

Concentration grids train the awareness part.

How does it work?

Concentration grids have numbers 00-100 displayed in a grid. Start at 00, and then check off each number in order. As you do this, you’ll see your mind wander. You’ll hear negative self-talk set in. 

This is the practice of awareness. 

Be on the lookout for a wandering mind and negative self talk and then practice coming back to the grid. You are on a mission to get to 100. Be here now with that grid and get to 100. Keep practicing coming back to the grid. Keep practicing; be aware of every time you wander from the grid.


Drill #2 – Signal Lights

I learned about signal lights from my friend and mentor Ken Ravizza in his book, Heads Up Baseball (co-authored with Tom Hanson) In the book they give this analogy: Athletes playing their sport are like people driving through and around signal lights. 

When the light is green you go. You’re in control. Just keep going. 

When it’s red you stop. This is like an athlete being out of control. Stop. 

But, when it’s yellow you have to make a decision. A split second decision.  How close are you? How close is the person behind you? Is it icy? Rainy? Dark? Is this a busy intersection? Are there pedestrians? School children? So many considerations that are calculated in a split second of time.

Ken and Tom believe that athletes spend most of their time in yellow.

So many decisions have to be made in so little time. And you have to make the right decision. Athletes also have to know when all those decisions and distractions spiral out of control, putting them in a red light situation. Because now they have to stop and gain composure to get back to being green and in control. 

In my mental performance certification course, I teach you what to do to get your players back to being in control of their performance. It’s called the 3-R strategy: Recognize, Release, Refocus.

Recognize they are out of control.

Release the negative self talk or mistake.

Refocus on the task at hand and win this next moment.

With intentional training, you can coach the mental game of sports.

Which is crucial.

Because we don’t rise to our expectations; we sink to our training.

Learn how to train the mental game. 

Start here with my FREE 3 Day Mini Course for Coaches or my FREE 3 Day Mini Course for Athletes

For Athletes

Tired of falling short of your potential? I’ll teach you the systems and secrets I use to help world-class athletes perform at an elite level.

In this FREE MiniCourse, Brian Cain will teach you how to:

  • Unlock your potential and make adversity your advantage by developing an elite mindset.
  • Become a machine of consistency by establishing the right performance routines and habits of excellence.
  • Get clarity on WHO you are, WHAT you want—and discover the behaviors you must start and stop to get the results you’ve been lacking.

Learn More

For Coaches

Help your athletes master the mental game so they can consistently perform their best, overcome any obstacle, and stay focused under pressure.

In this FREE MiniCourse, Brian Cain will teach you how to:

  • Get your athletes to perform their best when it means the most by using a SYSTEM to create an elite mindset.
  • Compete at a higher level, more consistently—while managing distraction and adversity—by establishing the RIGHT routines. 
  • Create the championship culture you need in your program to develop elite athlete leaders and cultivate a clear vision that keeps your people motivated and juiced up.

Learn More