With the upcoming United States Olympic marathon trials happening this Saturday, February 13th, I started thinking about what is important in the field of sport psychology. There are obviously many different sports and competitions within the athletic realm, however they call for different strategies and competencies. Sports such as golf require a great amount of refocusing strategies and attention control. Running requires a great deal of internal motivation and concentration. The sport of gymnastics can greatly be impacted and enhanced by the use of imagery and building confidence. No matter what the sport, however, routine is at the forefront of excellence and consistency. However, few of us actually take the time to formulate a pre-performance routine that works for us. There are so many things about a performance that we cannot control; however a routine is something that we can control. Whether you have a big strength workout at the gym, a soccer league game this weekend, or you are lining up for the Olympic marathon trials, you can benefit from a pre-performance routine.
Have everything you need…An important and overlooked part of a pre-performance routine is knowing that you have everything you need available. I mean how many of you have forgotten your uniform before and realized it right before the big game? Or perhaps you forgot your headphones going to the gym and now you are in for a very long and tedious cardio workout without the help of Beyoncé (maybe that’s just me...)? Whatever you need to compete at your best, make sure to make a detailed list and have it readily available. I put a note with my list next to my athletic bag. Right before I leave, I check the list and make sure everything is there so I have no disappointments at the competition. In the words of the infamous boy scouts, “Be Prepared.”
No comparisons…This might be the most critical aspect of the pre-performance routine. The reason why this routine will work is because it is only meant for you. Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing for their pre-performance routine. Figure out what works for you and what puts you in your “zone.” Some important aspects of a pre-performance routine includes what you eat and drink before the performance, certain music you may listen to before the performance, how you warm-up for the competition, and what order you take certain actions to be physically prepared to compete. This is the step where you can proudly put on those superstitious socks that you have been wearing since the eighth grade in every game (don’t be ashamed, we all have something).
Leverage confidence… Have a power statement, cue word, or mantra readily available before and during the performance. If you are the athlete who gets super anxious and nervous before the competition, use this statement to give you the confidence to believe in your training and abilities. If you are the athlete who needs help in the motivation department, use this statement to prime you for competition. A power statement is used to take charge of your emotions and allow you to be mentally ready for the competition. You can also visualize yourself completing an important task in the performance while repeating your power statement to add a visual affect to this step.
The most important thing to remember about a pre-performance routine is that it takes time to develop and it is individualized. After trial and error, figure out what gets you to the competition physically and mentally ready to compete at your greatest potential. Once you have this down, stick to it. There are so many uncontrollable factors in sport and exercise, so control what you can and stick with it.