The Mental Game: Are you ready to Compete?

by Stephanie and Eric Sharpe

Physically, you might feel like you’ve done everything possible to prepare for game day, race day, competition day.  If you’ve been here before, maybe you know what we’re referring to.  If it’s your first competition, then you need to understand a few things.  A good mental performance is essential to good athletic performance.

 

Preparing for a competition requires a unique perspective sometimes referred to as getting into “the Zone.”  The zone is a state of mind which is an almost other “worldly” mindset -time feels “suspended.” According to Mental Edge Athletics, from sportpsychologytoday.com, “The ‘zone’ is a state of supreme focus [in which]  “fear of failure, worry, doubt, indecision, and other mental traps are forbidden from entering your focus.”  But getting there is not a simple task.  Your body, and mind, has to have achieved a level of expertise first.

 

According retired professor of Health and Human Performance at MSU B, Russell Lord, “Expert performance, whether the skill is football, soccer, music, or surgery begins with initial, exploratory, unskilled performances.”  Dr. Lord’s article “Myths and Truths about Expertise and Expert Performance” which appeared on Montana’s Athletic Medicine and Performance (AMP) website, also gives the further insight that “progress can lead to competent (acceptable) performance, to superior skill and expert performance, then, finally elite (virtuoso) performance.”

 

Getting to this level takes time, practice, and mental preparedness. There is more to competing in an event than just going out and kicking a ball or running a race. Being able to perform the activity is important of course, but an athlete also needs to be mentally prepared for what is to come.

 

Having confidence in your abilities is probably the most important objective for mental preparation. To build confidence you need to compete, sometimes several times because practicing those skills in a competitive event is different than practicing in other settings.  You must learn to have a game plan, and visualize what you are going to do.

 

Be ready to deal with adversity. Obstacles can and do arise that could cause loss of focus, confidence, and composure. Developing ways in which to overcome these is key to future competitive success.

 

The best advice for mentally preparing for an event is to enter completely into the role of “athlete.” On the day of competition, other life issues should be set aside so the focus is completely on the competition. Develop a routine to get in the right mind set; listen to music, go through a set warm up routine, or repeat a personal mantra.  Finalize and commit to your strategy or game plan. Changing or questioning the plan right before a competition can negatively affect performance by making an athlete indecisive or to play tentatively.

 

Remember that less is more during the final days before a competition. An athlete should be well rested and mentally relaxed to perform at their best. Stick to a process that works and leave any changes for the next competition.

 

Getting in the “zone” requires the previously mentioned assets of confidence and physical preparation.  But    “entering the zone requires total commitment your game plan.”  Mental tools such as imagery, goal setting, thought management, and emotional control are some examples of ways to prepare for a competition. Like the event itself, these tools should be practiced and incorporated into an athlete’s daily routine.  How you get into the “zone” is up to you.

 

you’ve done everything possible to prepare for game day, race day, competition day.  If you’ve been here before, maybe you know what we’re referring to.  If it’s your first competition, then you need to understand a few things.  A good mental performance is essential to good athletic performance.

 

Preparing for a competition requires a unique perspective sometimes referred to as getting into “the Zone.”  The zone is a state of mind which is an almost other “worldly” mindset -time feels “suspended.” According to Mental Edge Athletics, from sportpsychologytoday.com, “The ‘zone’ is a state of supreme focus [in which]  “fear of failure, worry, doubt, indecision, and other mental traps are forbidden from entering your focus.”  But getting there is not a simple task.  Your body, and mind, has to have achieved a level of expertise first.

 

According retired professor of Health and Human Performance at MSU B, Russell Lord, “Expert performance, whether the skill is football, soccer, music, or surgery begins with initial, exploratory, unskilled performances.”  Dr. Lord’s article “Myths and Truths about Expertise and Expert Performance” which appeared on Montana’s Athletic Medicine and Performance (AMP) website, also gives the further insight that “progress can lead to competent (acceptable) performance, to superior skill and expert performance, then, finally elite (virtuoso) performance.”

 

Getting to this level takes time, practice, and mental preparedness. There is more to competing in an event than just going out and kicking a ball or running a race. Being able to perform the activity is important of course, but an athlete also needs to be mentally prepared for what is to come.

 

Having confidence in your abilities is probably the most important objective for mental preparation. To build confidence you need to compete, sometimes several times because practicing those skills in a competitive event is different than practicing in other settings.  You must learn to have a game plan, and visualize what you are going to do.

 

Be ready to deal with adversity. Obstacles can and do arise that could cause loss of focus, confidence, and composure. Developing ways in which to overcome these is key to future competitive success.

 

The best advice for mentally preparing for an event is to enter completely into the role of “athlete.” On the day of competition, other life issues should be set aside so the focus is completely on the competition. Develop a routine to get in the right mind set; listen to music, go through a set warm up routine, or repeat a personal mantra.  Finalize and commit to your strategy or game plan. Changing or questioning the plan right before a competition can negatively affect performance by making an athlete indecisive or to play tentatively.

 

Remember that less is more during the final days before a competition. An athlete should be well rested and mentally relaxed to perform at their best. Stick to a process that works and leave any changes for the next competition.

 

Getting in the “zone” requires the previously mentioned assets of confidence and physical preparation.  But    “entering the zone requires total commitment your game plan.”  Mental tools such as imagery, goal setting, thought management, and emotional control are some examples of ways to prepare for a competition. Like the event itself, these tools should be practiced and incorporated into an athlete’s daily routine.  How you get into the “zone” is up to you.

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