Match preparation: Different sports, same process1 Opinion
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About Thomas Buck
raduated from the University of Central Lancashire in 2012 with a BSc in Sport Psychology, and went on to graduate from UCLan with an MSc in Sport & Exercise Psychology in 2013. Currently gaining experience in research and applied consultancy having worked with various sporting teams from amateur to professionals across a range of ages whilst also working with Rescon Ltd as a Research Assistant.
Preparation is something that is key within sport and is also something that most people involved in, or even regularly watching sport will be very familiar with. Preparation comes in many different forms across a variety of sports, but the overall process, regardless of the sport and individuals or teams involved, is effectively the same. I have touched upon match preparation in previous articles, and it has been mostly referred to as deliberate practice within said articles. (See previous article: Increasing an Internal Self-Awareness Within Athletes To Improve Performance for further details on deliberate practice). For the purpose of this article, however, I think it’s necessary to focus more upon the actual processes of match preparation. Of course, match preparation depends entirely on the individual and what that person feels most comfortable with. This article will briefly discuss, what I as well as others believe athletes should engage in more to benefit performance.
Match preparation cannot just be limited to the build-up to a game. I’m sure when “match preparation” is mentioned most people will immediately think to the final hours before a performance, i.e. the routine a tennis player may have during the morning of a game, or even right down to which boot a footballer may put on first. These things are a type of preparation, but more so refer to a routine in which the athlete has found comfortable and eventually becomes the final stage to “initiate” the right frame of mind for performance.
The preparation I will discuss, however, is much more detailed and incredibly more beneficial. Preparation should by no means start on the day, or even the day before a performance. Preparation should be outlined in advance, 2, 3, 4 days or potentially even weeks in advance. A professional golf player may approach an upcoming tournament by “walking the course”, playing a round and getting a “feel” for the course. This is a great example of match preparation that can be improved just be increasing the time spent involved in that “walk” and can be applied across all sports in their own unique way. So what is it exactly that can be done in this situation? Below is a brief example of a process that can be applied to prepare for competition.
- Review previous performances – This will provide the opportunity to see where an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Taking the positives out of performances is key to establishing confidence in your own performances and abilities.
- Assess future performance – Where is the next performance? Assess opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Review course/track and assess where the best place is to play/ride.
- Incorporate into training – After having assessed opponents/course/track begin to incorporate these into training and adapt training to promote your strengths against opponent’s weaknesses. This will construct new memories and form a strong link between the athlete’s brain and body, and when competition approaches the brain will react faster, causing the body to react faster to signals from the brain. This will aid the improvement of performances.
Although this is a very brief summary of what preparation should be engaged in by athletes, the main points that should be taken from this is that athlete’s need to engage in a variety of preparation to benefit and facilitate positive performances. This type of preparation requires more time to develop, but is much more beneficial to future performances and prolonged use of this type of preparation will, as previously stated, form a strong link between the brain and body and allow for an increase in performance as well as positive self-awareness that encourages confidence and motivation to improve and succeed.
As previously mentioned, this is only a very brief insight into what is necessary for an improved match preparation that aids the athlete both physically and psychologically. While the same key points are essential to form a strong preparation process, athletes should be encouraged to make this personal and unique to their own individual needs.