Using concentration grids to help develop focus and awareness

by Brian Cain, MPM

Concentration grids have been a staple of mental conditioning for years. This game/exercise is all about concentration and efficiency, which is best accomplished by staying in the present moment.  Concentration grids are a great way to increase your ability to stay in the present moment for an extended period of time.

Your training program with concentration grids is simple.  Cross out the grid numbers from 00-99, in order, as fast as you can.  During this exercise, you are testing yourself to see how efficiently you can perform the  task.  You are also testing your ability to concentrate and stay in the present

Start practicing this exercise in a quiet environment to become comfortable with the activity and to monitor your present moment focus.  Once you have become proficient at it in a quiet environment, you may play music or do this activity in front of the TV as a way to include distractions just as there will be when you compete.  The more you do this activity and the more quickly you can cross out the numbers in order, the more you are developing your ability to concentrate and keeping your mind in the present moment.  Athletes I have worked with report that the grids allow them to become more aware of when they start to space out and lose focus, when they slip out of the present and into the past or the future.  The exercises also allow them to become more aware of when they are trying too hard and need to take a breath in order to relax and get back into an optimal level of focus

It is also important to keep track of the time it takes to complete each grid.  When I started doing concentration grids on a routine basis (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings before I ate breakfast), my time was in the low- to mid-teens in minutes.  After almost two months, I was able to do them in about four or five minutes, even in the crazy and chaotic environment known as a high-school cafeteria

Here are some sample concentration grids you can use to help train yourself to stay in the present moment for an extended period of time