There are times in life when it pays to be organised. To some this might mean having the right sports gear, to others it might be about attending the right training camp, while simply to sum it’s as significant as working with a nutritionist to ensure a well-balanced diet. For athletes, being organised applies to everything, especially mental preparation. Sport psychology helps improve preparation.
While of course an athlete can’t perform without adequately training, since it demands them to be in peak physical condition, it’s also true that they need to be in the right frame of mind.
Here we look at why this is so important, and how it can be achieved.
Preparation is everything, as they say. Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail. There are many reasons why it’s valuable for an athlete to give due consideration to preparation ahead of a game, such as:
In the zone
Many athletes talk about getting in the zone, just watch BBC Sports for half an hour and an athlete is bound to come on and make the statement! But it’s not just a buzzword, it’s a fact.
Getting in the zone mentally before a big game will give you a real advantage. It will help you focus and better perform, as well as block out distractions.
If you don’t already have a pre-game routine, then now’s the time to sit down with your sports coach and put one together.
No matter how skilled an athlete, motivation is an issue that crops up from time to time. However, having a plan in place and goals to achieve will help you face the day with new excitement. It’s important to think ahead so that motivation doesn’t wane.
If it’s all about focus, then having a plan in place is the best way to achieve this. Knowing that you have a strategy and understanding the steps involved is a sure-fire way to keep your eyes on the prize.
It can be easy to lose control of your emotions in sport. But, good preparation will equip you with the right skills in place to be able to better deal with them. With good planning, you will be able to anticipate the issues that lie ahead, which in turn prepare you better for dealing with any eventuality.
On a similar note, forward planning can help reduce arousal levels. If you have a plan of action for managing your thoughts and behaviours, it will be one less thing to worry about.
Feeling confident and assured is a by-product of being prepared. As any sports coach will tell you, maintaining a positive composure is important in this game, and self-belief plays a large part of this. Give yourself the best shot of success, by being well prepared for every eventuality and see how it can boost your confidence.
How To Prepare?
So, we know that preparation is important, so what steps can we do in order to prepare? Let’s take a look at some of these techniques in greater detail:
One of the main focus of sports psychology is to look at how our thoughts shape our actions, and how we can better manage these.
Working with your sports coach in daily sport training, it’s important to devise a way of managing emotions and thoughts. Take the opportunity to talk through issues, and mental blocks, as a way to overcome them. Mention negative as well as positive thoughts. Communication is cathartic and can help overcome a number of issues and may even boost your confidence.
A technique used in sports of all kinds, imaging is the role of positively visualising the journey to success. It goes beyond the glory of winning, and forces you to rehearse and think the steps required to get there. It’s a powerful tool that is used by athletes everywhere, especially ahead of a big game.
Make time in your training programme to set aside time to improve your imagery technique, allowing yourself to develop this utilising all your sense. It is something that can only improve over time.
Mental preparation is about controlling inside thoughts. A tried and tested technique is deep breathing, or guided breathing. This can take a number of weeks to master, but it forces your body and mind to come together. The deep breaths in expand your lungs, filling you with oxygen while mentally you’re helping yourself to calm down.
This will also prove useful ahead of events and times of stress when your physical and psychological arousal needs managing.
Some people chose to use guided recordings to help them through this process – it’s a case of whatever works for you best.
Have a playlist
Music has the power to inspire, motivate and reframe the way you think. It’s no surprise therefore that many professional athletes adopt a preferred music playlist to apply to every part of sport. From core training to event performance. Much like all factors in sport, your playlist should be personal to you, as long as it evokes positive thoughts and puts you in a happy frame of mind.
Working with your sports coach, you should already have established a framework for success in your training programme. Be it performance, process or outcomes, think about the short, medium and long-term goals you need to set in order to achieve these.
In the ever-competitive world of amateur or elite sport, mental preparation is crucial for long-term success. It forces you to think ahead and plan, as well as think about the areas that influence and support your wellbeing.
If you’re able to think ahead and plan in advance, this is a great way to give yourself the best chance of success to achieve your goals.
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