In less than 2 days the annual SA High School Track and Field Championship will take place in Durban where athletes from all the provinces will compete. This is what so many athletes, coaches and parents have been looking forward to and worked hard for. Competing at this level is what it is all about and winning a medal is the dream for many athletes and their parents and coaches. This is the event that really counts and where all the sacrifice and hard work comes together. The stakes are high end the expectation on the athletes even higher. Time for training and practice is over and time to deliver is what it is all about.
“One of the most profound things validated through study after study of many great athletes, is that if you take a group of athletes with equal ability and some receive mental training while others do not, the ones who were given mental training will always outperform those without. Why? Simple: because those who use mental training skills develop a Mental Edge” - Gonzalez
I have been told by many sports psychologist and mental coaches that Practice and Training is 90% physical and 10% mental. Interesting, but what if I tell you that performing with success, when it counts is the exact opposite. That’s right. When it counts your mental strength and focus is key. Consider this: On competition day you are no longer building strength and practicing skill, you are applying all of what you have done up to that point. Applying your training and skill is done in your mind and not in your body.
When the pressure is really on, what goes on in your mind will determine your result. Good or bad! Your ability to focus, deal with pressure and mistakes, confidence and mental toughness will determine how well your hard work and training will pay off.
Stop worrying about what the opposition will be doing, or what happened in the past. Competition day anything can happen when you focus on what you can do!! You have come this far. Make sure to get your head in the game and capitalize on all your training. That’s right - Do not waste all your hard work and training by leaving your mental toughness to chance.
Change your self Talk and Focus on what you can control
The first step to get your mind into the game is to be aware of how you mental chatter or self-talk is affecting you. This inner voice we all hear from time to time is our own “inner coach”. Negative thought impact on how you feel and does not just stay in your head. Negative thoughts will impact on your body and you may become aware of this when your muscles start tighten, shallow breathing, increase your heart rate and blood pressure, diverting blood flow away from your hands and feet, starting to feel heavy and lethargic.
Ask yourself: Are you aware of the difference in yourself talk when you perform at your best and when you did not perform as well as you would have liked? Not knowing this can have a very negative impact on performing when it counts. Once you are aware of your negative thoughts you can stop them immediately and replace them with more resourceful thoughts. Having your own positive focus word can get you right back on track. Read more about: Self-Talk – How are you being influenced by your inner voice?
Disconnect from the outcome and stop thinking!!!
You are way more resourceful when you are relaxed and focused solely in the present moment. There are various methods and techniques that can get into more resourceful state e.g. breathing techniques, imagery and the anchoring of desired states. The Sport Mind Mastery Workshops and one on one sessions deal with these methods and techniques in more detail. Also read Why do Athletes perform better in Practice than in Competition!?
Step into the moment and be Present!
To be totally in the Present, ... that is the key. Your goal is to compete in the present moment throughout the competition. This is when body and mind are one, training takes over and the mind becomes calm and clear. Remember that when you are in the moment you can allow all of what you have worked for, all the hard training and sacrifices over the last few months, to just happen freely. Be focused, have fun, live your passion and make your dream come alive.
What do previous competitors have to say?
Be prepared, enjoy every moment , stop thinking and just do it!
Anneke Germishuys – Gold Medal winner Javelin
Don’t compete against your opponents… compete against yourself.
Zandri Bailey – SA u23 Champion
Duplicate what works in training!
Article compiled by Bennie Louw the Sport Mind Coach
Training Your Mind for Sports Performance – Providing training for coaches, managers, parents, high level performers and keen amateurs who wish to learn the techniques to improve their mental approach to sport.
There is nothing more frustrating for athletes than to have all this ability and talent and not to be able to access it when they need it the most.