In earlier posts we overviewed some of the differences between the external environment, your own internal environment (mindset) and the how they both compare in practice to that of competition.
We found that the performance often differs in these two settings. The competitive environment is very different then the practice environment and the results confirm this.
The challenge is to prepare for these differences so performance is not compromised.
I’ve asked you at times the question, “what gets to you?” That is, when your athletic performance has not lived up to your capabilities, what seems to get in your way, i.e. low confidence, anxiety, distractions?
Today we’ll look at some suggested strategies to help manage your mindset and internal pressure both in the practice environment as well as on the field of battle that will help enhance your athletic performance.
Because external circumstances are often part of the competition experience that can help create internal turbulence, you need to mental training to prepare for these pressure situations.
Just as you prepare yourself to deal with strategies and tactics of your opponents; you need to prepare yourself mentally for the unique pressures or challenges you face, both physical and mental.
You can, with intention, purposefully use practice to mentally and physically prepare for the challenges of competition. There are many ways to mentally train for these pressure situations, dependent on “what gets to you” the most. The key here is to include the competitive distraction and challenges into your practice and provide an opportunity to learn how to manage these challenges. Here are a few mental strength strategy examples:
- Get a “boom box” and play the noise of a crowd loudly at practice to challenge yourself to manage this distraction.
- Create rewards for yourself for performing up to a certain level. Conversely, penalize yourself for failure to achieve a practice goal. These incentives can help attach significance and pressure to your performance.
- Practice critical elements of your athletic performance under conditions of physical and mental fatigue—the same fatigue you will experience in competition.
- Try to simulate the physical manifestations of anxiety (increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and jitteriness) then challenge yourself to perform under such conditions. These symptoms can be induced through physical exertion or imagery.
- Use imagery to create “competitive situations” in practice. Prepare yourself for performing under pressure by seeing and feeling yourself perform well under the conditions, both internal and external, that will exist when you are actually competing.
Creating pressure situations or competitive conditions in practice is a step towards helping you deal with various types of performance pressure. It is equally important to have strategies in place to help during competition when faced with various challenges or obstacles. Let’s look at some often encountered obstacles and note some strategies to use to help you overcome some of the mental obstacles.
To overcome pre-competition worry:
- Remind yourself of successful practices and great past performances. Focus on what you need to do in the competition to keep your mind filled with productive and supportive thinking.
- Manage your self-talk to help you control your mental anxiety. I’ve given some examples in a pervious post
- Distract yourself from your worries by talking with teammates, read, listening to music, etc.
- Using imagery, review your competition plan…seeing and experiencing success.
To overcome pre-competition physical anxiety:
- Your increased heart rate, tense muscles, and rapid, shallow breathing can be managed through controlled breathing exercises or other physical relaxation strategies.
- If your muscles are tight, stretch them. Keep them optimally loose and limber by moving slowly and stretching.
- Ask for a light massage to work out tightness.
To overcome low self-confidence:
- Visualize the upcoming performance, seeing and experiencing your success.
- Focus on what is controllable. Confidence can be undermined when trying to control or worry about things that are not in your controllable, i.e. weather, competitors, start position, officials, etc.
- The majority of athletes experience some doubts or concerns. The key is to avoid focusing on the doubts and instead get on with the business of what you need to do to perform well.
- Direct your physical and mental energy to your performance rather than using your energy on your opponent’s performance. Remind yourself of the key elements of your performance, the things you need to do, and can do, to perform well.
- Set realistic, yet challenging goals for yourself.
To overcome the pressure to have a “peak” performance at a major competition:
- Implement the pre-competition routine you have developed that facilitates your performance regardless of whether it is a pre-season or end of season competition.
- Keep the competition in perspective. Acknowledge that you want to perform well, but it is just one of a multitude of competitive opportunities.
- Regardless of the environment, all you have control over is your performance. Focus on what you need to do to perform well.
- Implement strategies to build your confidence.
Using the above strategies will help you overcome the mental pressures of competition and support you in achieving new levels of athletic performance. Remember perfect practice makes perfect, so be sure to practice these skills before you need them in the heat of competition.
OK…do you have any other tips that you use to enhance athletic performance? Please share them in the comments below.
- Mental Rehearsal And Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- Focused Self-Talk and Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- Mental Strength Tip #43 – Mindset, Expectations And Personal Success (warriormindcoach.com)
- Self-Talk and Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- Nervousness And Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- Focusing On Performance Goal For Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- First Things First For Focused Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- Mental Strength, Confidence and Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- Mental Strength Skills and Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
- Mental Strength Cheat Sheet For Peak Athletic Performance (warriormindcoach.com)
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