I teach athletes several mental preparation strategies that can be applied to pre-competition routines.
However, you must always remember the overall aim of your mental preparation and the pregame mindset you are trying to establish. Overall, your goal is to achieve a focused, confident and trusting mindset prior to competition. Below are the six major objectives you’ll want to accomplish.
- To feel prepared and ready to compete. The feeling of preparation equals confidence. When you feel fully prepared, you feel ready to compete. Most of what athletes and teams do prior to competition (practice, workouts, analyzing the competition or course) helps them feel ready to compete.
- To feel confident in one’s skills. Confidence is the number one objective of your mental preparation. Confidence without strict expectations is my formula for success. As you will learn, confidence can be built in many ways, including from practice, preparation, game plans and the mindsets you maintain.
- To focus on execution. What you focus on prior to competition is critical to your mental game success. I teach athletes where to direct their focus and how to improve their refocusing skills when competing.
- To prepare to cope with adversity. I could probably write an entire book about this often overlooked component of mental preparation. With experience, athletes learn how to cope with any adversity — with situations that could cause them to lose focus, confidence or composure. If you haven’t experienced many adverse situations, you’ll have to anticipate the challenges that might affect your mindset, and develop strategies to cope with each.
- To finalize a game plan or strategy. In most team sports, athletes are given the game plan. However, athletes who participate in individual sports, such as running, golf, tennis and racing, must develop their own plans and strategies. Later, I will detail the factors to consider when developing a game or race plan.
- To fully enter the role of the athlete. I use this phrase to help athletes make the transition between life and sports. I want my students to shelve any life challenges or hassles, and learn how to fully focus on competition. Later, I’ll discuss how this applies to your pre-competition preparation.
Although many teams and athletes strive to attain these objectives, some don’t have a system for reaching them. Before I discuss my system for mental preparation, however, let’s focus on the top pregame mental errors you’ll need to avoid.
In my work, one of my first tasks is determining which mental errors or self-limiting beliefs are in play. Most self-limiting beliefs or negative attitudes can override the positive effects of mental skills training. For example, if you believe you “always” have trouble catching high pop-ups, this belief will hold you back, because you will act it out. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.