22. Rituals / Pre competition routines
How do you spend the hours before you go into the heat of battle?
More importantly, does this time help or hinder your performance?
- Pre Competition Routines – The Basics
Regardless of what type of event it might be the same basics rules are the same. You’re trying to time your “A-Game” for that event, for when it matters. And if for any reason your A-Game is simply not possible then doing whatever is required so that your B-Game is on show. As opposed to your D or E game.
In many ways, one might sum up the work that performance / sport psychologists do as being just that. We help athletes, coaches, sporting officials and non-sporting performers to be as good as possible when it counts. Note the ‘as possible’ part. Trying to be excellent 100% of the time is both impossible and therefore counterproductive.
But how exactly do we go about helping performers to be as good as possible when it counts?
- Pre Competition Routines are Mental Skills
For a start, we take the individual differences that exist between people very seriously. What this means is that although all of the Metuf mental methods we suggest are scientifically based the way we introduce them is highly tailored to the individual. It may come as a surprise that we actually do very, very little group work. Even when we’re working with a sporting team the most common way we provide our sport psychology services is via one-on-one consults.
In other words, we almost never present to the athletes as a group. It’s just not an effective way to have a long-lasting impact on their mental toughness and/or wellbeing. As one of the very first psychologists to join our team put it “it’s like trying to give a group haircut”.
The one-on-one conversations that dominate our working time ensure that the psychological skills are all based on the needs and the wants of that person. In some situations these can be the exact opposite of what we suggested to his/her teammate an hour beforehand.
But the sports science ensures that despite the highly tailored nature of our work there are still common threads that keep the complex tapestry together.
- What’s The Main Aim Of A Good PCR?
One such common thread is the importance that is given to the lead up to a competition. To put it bluntly, the day or three before the competition is a time that is often skipped when looking at optimal performance strategies. It often slips between the cracks of practice and competing.
In my work I consider it to be part of the competition. In other words competition for my clients starts with a Pre Competition Routines not the actually completing part. For sports that either last a long time (cricket) and/or have long tournaments then this process can last for days rather than hours.
First of all, you need to know what the main aim of this lead-up time is – rest and relaxation.
Now you know the aim you need to know how to go about it. Easier said than done, right? Here are two golden rules.
First, the word routine(s) is probably not the best choice of words here. The word routines can suggest it’s got to be the same every single time. This can be stressful and therefore defeats the purpose. Maybe a better term is Pre Competition Preferences. Even better if not wanting to exclude non-sporting performers might be Pre Event Preferences.
The second golden rule is this. The relaxation techniques you choose want to be action based not thought based. Why? We have a lot more influence over our actions than our thoughts. Quite simply, the actions – especially once repeated – will get the job done when it counts.
Finally remember the time for training is over once the Pre Competition Routine starts. You’re not going to get any better at catching a ball the day before the world series. Nor are you going to be able to improve your fitness on the morning of the finals. But you can easily use up some of your physical and mental resources well before the starting whistle if you are not careful.
- A Real-Life Example
Over two consecutive Tuesdays last year, I made my way to Sydney (I live two hours again towards Canberra) in order to work with a small but exceptional group of cricket coaches. On both occasions, the workshop started at 11 am.
For the first workshop, I decided to get up early and accept that I might get stuck in traffic. So, having had breakfast far earlier than normal I left home with an hour extra in case of traffic. After an hour of driving two things happened within quick succession. First, the traffic was far worse than Google Maps said it was going to be. Second my wife called to say I had taken both sets of car keys accidentally.
Luckily her sister was in Sydney and was planning on taking the train to our place later so all I needed to do was give her the keys. A frantic 30 minutes of phone calls later we agreed on a place for me to give her the keys. But the deviation and traffic now meant that I’d only be arriving just before the first workshop with the coaches.
I tried and succeeded to a certain extent to use exactly the same kinds of stress-reducing strategies that I have spent the past 15 years teaching to my clients. I made it just before the start of the workshop and delivered it to the best of my abilities.
- Feeling Better Prepared
Fast forward a week for the second workshop and this time I decided to drive down to Sydney the night before and stay with friends. For a start, there was no traffic on that Monday night and so the drive down towards the coast was actually quite relaxing. That night I went to bed early and even had time for an ocean swim the following morning. I arrived with bags of time before the 2nd workshop. I couldn’t have been more relaxed and rested. Although the cricket coaches might not have noticed the lead up to the second workshop allowed me to bring my A-Game for Workshop 2. Whereby I felt my B Game was the best I could manage the week before.
Author: Gareth J. Mole
Gareth J. Mole is an endorsed Sport and Exercise Psychologist. He is the founder of Condor Performance and co-creator of Metuf™. He lives between Canberra and Sydney (Australia) with his wife, their two children and their fourteen chickens.