Why do Athletes perform better in Practice than in Competition!?

Article compiled by Bennie Louw BA, BA.Hons, CHT, NLP, HNLP, CPTF

Sport Mind High JumpHave you ever wondered why it is that when athletes practice, everything just seems so much easier than in competition? This is probably one of the most common questions I get asked by many coaches, parents and athletes. To see and experience how athletes under perform is the frustration and heartache of many a coach and parent, not to mentioned the athlete.

Why is it that in training the javelin travels farther or the jumps are so much higher or the batter bats with so much more ease? What makes what an athlete does so seemingly effortless in practice become so painful to watch as they fall apart in competition.

“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.”

You may have wondered why this happens. Could it be that the answer lies in the belief that when you practice you have lots of chances and should you mess up you can do it over? In competition this is not the case, because you often only have one chance to get it right and the stakes are much higher. This may just hold the key that highlights one of the biggest mental mistakes athletes often make. That’s right. Holding on and focusing on the outcome. This outcome focused approach has been the undoing of many athletes.

The difference that makes the difference.

BoxingThe main difference between training and competition is what you focus on. When you are training the focus is more on the process of doing, whereas in competition you can easily focus on the outcome. What this means is that in training there are less pressure on failing and more focus on what you are doing. When you are focused in the process, your body and mind is more relaxed and loose, helping you to perform with more ease. Peak performance requires you to be calm, clear and relaxed.

Disconnect from the outcome!!!

You may already know this and despite knowing you still find yourself automatically over thinking your performance. You start to become more and more aware of the outcome and how important it is to perform. You start to notice the other athletes and become distracted by how important it becomes to beat them. Getting even more distracted by how psyched out you get when you focus on making your opponents more unbeatable and talented than what you are.

It becomes less on what you need to do than what you want to achieve. At this moment your own internal process and thinking takes over as you pressure yourself more and more and you start trying too hard. Can you recall a time when this happened? Remember how your body started to react as your mind was losing focus and becoming distracted. When this happens you become more nervous, your confidence starts to dwindle and your body starts to tighten.

Stop Thinking!!!

How do you then turn this around? Stop Thinking! Easier said than done! Through many years of helping athletes achieve their goals, I have found that one of the most critical parts of performing on a higher level is to get them to “not think”. That’s right! Getting in the zone is all about automatic action. You are way more resourceful when you are relaxed and focused solely in the present moment. Through various methods and techniques I often teach athletes how to get into more resourceful states. With the use of breathing techniques, imagery and the anchoring of desired states you can become more at ease to perform at your best. The Sport Mind Mastery Workshops and one on one sessions deal with these methods and techniques in more detail.

Why do you take time to train the body and spend so little time on the mind?

It is so ironic that the part that will probably make the difference between a good and great performance lies in the mind. Neglecting your mental preparation or thinking it is a once off thing will cost you. Just think about it. What will happen when you stop training your body and practicing your skills? That’s right, you will become out of shape. The mind is just like your muscles in the sense that it needs training, discipline and routine and it will reward you by enhancing your skills and performance greatly. The top athletes know that this is often the difference that makes the difference. Being a confident athlete requires you to train your mind just as hard as your body. Confidence is not something that everybody is born with, but something you can work at.

Self-Talk: How are you talking to yourself when it counts?

Calm ClearYour self-talk can be your biggest obstacle or ally. Fixating on negative experiences and holding onto past mistakes can damage how you perform in the future. However when you change your internal chatter to be more positive your body can respond in a different way. Remember thoughts create feelings and feelings influence actions. Becoming aware of your self-talk is the first step to interrupting the negative patterns. Once you are aware you can stop the negative thoughts and immediately replace them with more resourceful ones. You can even create your own positive focus word to get you back on track. Read more about: Self-Talk – How are you being influenced by your inner voice?

To perform under pressure your competitions needs to resemble more of how you practice.

We have already discussed the difference between training and competition and when you are able to bring the effective elements of training, into competition, you may just find that competition starts to resemble your training performance or even better.

Duplicate what works in training!

Bennie SportmindArticle 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.

Click here to Contact Bennie

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