In my last post I wrote about the importance of stress reduction. One area of importance I mentioned was how you prepare for your competition. The time leading up to an event is arguably the most important part of the act of competing. This time can be stressful and potentially problematic. Athletes who experience anxiety may exacerbate the situation through:
- Remembering poor performances
- Doubting one’s ability
- Pressure to perform from coaches, teammates, or self
- Not having a routine
While all of these affect your performance, by addressing the last point, routines, you can combat all of the other mental hang-ups. During your physical warm-up and preparation you can begin to install a mental preparation that will keep you focused and confident. Leading up to the event your preparation should include the following in some form:
- Feedback/evaluation – the use of video to critique past performance, coach’s evaluation, etc allow for better and more objective feedback. It forces you to be honest with yourself and not be too negative.
- Create and use a competition plan- use visualization to experience goals and outcomes, have expectations besides winning.
- Create and use a pre-competition routine- have a plan of how you will get ready, review your goals and expectations, go through focus exercises, and relax.
- Control for unnecessary distractions- find time to be by yourself, listen to music, or go through some extra relaxation techniques to calm your mind.
While you cannot control everything you can work on making sure you are prepared for competition. While there are many different mental skills to use it is recommended that you package them as listed above. This will allow you to control as much as possible and not be affected by uncontrollable circumstances such as: event time schedule changes, transportation problems, and illness. An athlete who is prepared will have a better chance to handle changes, distractions, or setbacks prior to or during competition.
The key to all of this is practice. You need to practices these steps and practice your mental skills regularly. Just as with any physical skill you need to practice and use these skills every time you compete.