Majority of our time and effort is spent learning technique and strategies to prep for competition day. Your strategy should also include prepping your mind. And this is much different from the mental strength we build while we push ourselves in the practice room. These mental strategies are all about giving our minds the best tools to allow our bodies to perform.
In terms of comparisons, forgetting about mental training or sports psychology is like buying an expensive car and forgetting to put the correct oil in it. We spend countless hours training our bodies to perform at an optimum level, and then expect our minds relinquish the power to our bodies without training it.
The first step is creating a plan for yourself. Creating a plan to follow is helpful to give yourself a chance to repeat and improve on what you like to do before and on competition day. Get yourself a piece of paper (or a sport journal!) and write down the things you did at a recent competition:
1. What was your routine the day before competition/weigh-ins?
2. What did you eat/drink the day before, and after weight-ins?
3. How did you prep after weigh-ins?
4. What is your warm up like?
- Would you make any changes?
- Who was your partner?
- Duration and intensity of warm up
- Time after warm up before competition began
5. Your pre match warm-up and post match cool-down?
Now, as important as creating your plan is, I believe this next section is 10x MORE important. THIS IS WHAT MAKES AND BREAKS ATHLETES TRYING TO REACH THE NEXT LEVEL. What happens when this plan does not go through like expected? What happens when the partner you usually warm up with is sick, or your parents say the wrong thing to you, or you ate the wrong thing and now you are feeling unlike your usual self? You have to be flexible in your mind to let it pass and move on to the next thing. You may be able to control what you do in order to prep yourself in the best way possible, but that does mean that you live in a bubble. The unexpected, the uncontrollable, the unfortunate can still penetrate "the plan." Now, on the next page of your journal write down the answers to these questions:
1. What thoughts did you notice throughout your competition?
- Morning of
- During warm-up
- Each match
2. Name 4 values pertaining to you as a person, not yourself as a competitor
- Katherine's Example:
- One of my core values is Generosity
3. How do you represent your 4 values at a competition?
- Katherine's Example:
Being at my best, being prepared, and having the most fight in the match will be the most generous gesture to my opponents
3. What cues from your values can you use to move forward when your mind serves up certain thoughts?
This is what will help your mind to let your body do the job it knows how to do. It doesn't matter if you have the perfect warm-up, the perfect weight cut, the perfect understanding of technique. You don't need to be perfect because nothing needs to be "fixed." Being perfect does not guarantee that you will come out the victor. But your values, they will always be the core of you. And tying your values to that love and desire to compete is what will give yourself the best chance. To know that your mind will serve up thoughts, MANY thoughts. Thoughts that you don't want to think. But they will, and tying yourself to the things you value allows you to bring your focus on competing moment by moment, instead of competing with a fear of loosing.
Sports psychology is a journey, not a race. Be patient with it! I have a lot more where this came from, so leave a comment below if you can relate to this and you want more advice on the topic!