Consistent preparation prior to competing is a key influence on the actual performance that you deliver. From a mental perspective it’s worth remembering;Consistent preparation = consistent performance.

Knowing that your pre-game preparation has such consistency to it that you’ll always deliver yourself to the start line in absolutely the ideal mental state to perform is a great element of your performance armoury. Consider the position of strength you’ll be in knowing no matter what the circumstances, conditions, venue, or opposition, you’ll always be mentally 100% ready to deliver everything that’s available to you on any given day. You can see how ultimately that the more challenging the circumstances you faced, the more confident you’d become that you’d be able to deliver more effectively than your opponents.

There is no guarantee that you’ll wake up on the morning of your competition feeling absolutely 100% or that the conditions you’ll be face will be 100% ideal. Therefore, knowing that even if this is the case, you’ll be able to go through your tried and tested pre game routine, will bring a great sense of confidence and control to you.

So, what’s your current level of confidence in your pre-race routines?

  • Are you world leading in your consistency of mental preparation?
  • Has your consistency of pre-game mental preparation reached a peak or are you still improving in terms of the level of control you achieve every competition?
  • Is there any chance that opponents prepare better than you in the lead up to competition and deliver themselves to the start line more ready to compete and more likely to deliver relative to their potential?

Begin with the start in mind.

How do you know your pre-race routine works for you? Consider the following questions:

  • What is your ideal mindset?
  • How do you like to be feeling?
  • What do you know you need to be thinking about?
  • How does this critical period set you up to get into the mental rhythm of competing that you need?
  • How often would you say you get the ingredients absolutely 100% spot on for you?

If you know the answers to the questions, then the next question to consider is, how confident are you that you can create this mindset, these feelings and thoughts every time, through your pre-game build up?

The more confident you can be that you’ll always be sitting on the start line completely focused in the right way to deliver a great performance, the more you’ll know you’re going to produce a great performance every time you compete. No hoping and wishing – just knowing!

Did you think as you’d intended?

Throughout competition you’re very used to reviewing whether you delivered the right technical pattern and executed the required tactical changes. You’ll benefit hugely from being able to determine whether you “thought the way you intended to think”, both prior to the competition starting and during the competition. From a completely bias perspective as a psychologist, it’s my view that before you review technical or tactical components of a race/game, you need to have determined whether you mind was working in the best way possible for you.

If you haven’t delivered the ideal thinking approach, chances are technique and tactical execution will be affected. There’s very little point simply focusing on those areas when your thoughts or focus might be responsible for the slightly off-key performance. Equally, if you’re 100% sure that your mind was totally in the right state before and during competition, then any inconsistencies in technique and execution can be looked at with much greater  confidence that there has been no mental reason for any drop-off.

Get in control, stay in control

Ok, back to the start line and delivering yourself there in the best possible mental shape to perform the way that you want to. One concept that is very useful to consider is that of control, and more accurately, the sense that you are in control of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

When it comes to performing, when you’re really firing on all cylinders, chances are you feel fully in control. Chances are you feel totally in control of every push and every response you have to make.

From a psychological momentum perspective, you can maximise the chances of being in control by working on the concept of being in control prior to the competition. From the moment you wake up on the day of a race/game, you can think get a theme of being in control going. Just as you’re going to choose how you go off the start and get up to race speed, controlling your actions, you can get a great sense of effective pre-race preparation by knowing what the choices are that you can make in the build up that will help you to feel as positive and prepared as possible.

This concept of control and choosing what you want to do is usually demonstrated really effectively in the pre-game warm-ups, choosing exactly how you want to physically and technically put the finishing touches to your preparation. Pre game chats will also take place at a pre-determined time of your choice, so you control when it happens and the kind of things you’ll focus on. From an individual perspective it’s important that you have your own game day recipe of choosing to do the right things that put you in control and keep you in control.

  • What choices can you make that you know will help prepare you mentally in a consistent manner?
  • When do you choose to carry out some pre-game visualisation on your own to reinforce the blueprint of success one more time?
  • When do you get the ipod on and listen to the ideal piece of music to get you ready? When do you use it to chill you out?
  • When do you look over the race plan one more time so that you get excited about finding out how well you’re going to execute it today?

All common sense questions and all common practices for most people. You’re all pretty much at the top of your game and will have great ways of preparing for races that help to get the mind and body in absolutely great shape to race.

The point of the questions above is to get you thinking about the consistency with which you apply your pre-game build up strategies and to get you think specifically about how well you’re controlling your mind and choosing your thoughts to help deliver a great performance when it really matters.

The more you can get in control prior to the race, then more likely you are to be in control during the race. So, the race starts before the light goes green. If you can get in control more consistently that your opposition prior to the race, you can sit on the start line feeling a sense of competitive advantage in the knowledge that you’re more ready, have more ability and have more motivation to deliver.

Whether at the training ground preparing for a 2k run, getting ready for an ergo test, or sitting on the start line of the Olympic Games final, your mental management of the build up can make a critical, final difference to how much you exploit the opportunity and take control of a key performance moment. With enough practice of your pre-game routine, you should be able to be 100% sure that there will never be a psychological factor that leads to an underperformance.