In the realm of athletic performance, let us not forget the importance of psychological preparation. More specifically, let’s deal with that “jumping-off point”, the mental preparation required before taking that first step – the get-ready stance at the starting gate, the face-off before a hockey or basketball game, the pre-fight ritual before a boxing match. How do we prepare ourselves for maximum performance?
1.) Physical preparation:
Sorry folks, but there’s just no substituting for this one. Without adequate physical preparation, no amount of positive self-talk or visualization is going to get you through the wall. In fact, Donald Chu believes physical preparation is 90% of the game.
More importantly, so do I. 🙂
2.) Clear plan of action:
What am I going to do once the ball is in play? Where do my hands go? What’s my strategy? Create a game plan for the game/event – a master plan of strategy (e.g., tennis – serve/volley, baseline counterpunch, play the angles, etc.). In addition to a master plan, one should have one, maybe two, maybe three plans of action for each given situation. If such prep is not possible, create systems that cut down on “thinking time.” For example, in boxing, punches can come in from so many angles and combinations that it is impossible to prepare for all of them by simply doing drills at each angle – it would take you years. So create a system: section off potential target areas into “zones”, teach your fighter to defend if he senses a punch in zone 1, defend another way for a zone 2 attack, and so forth. That way, you cover all your bases without over-analyzing and overwhelming your practices.
Just prior to liftoff, stop for a moment and visualize a successful run of your attempts. See that completed pass in your head. Roll the film of that perfect Rodeo 540 in the movie in your mind. This sets up your mind, and consequently, your body, for success.
4.) Positive self-talk/anchor:
Tell yourself, “This is easy. I’ve done this a million times before.” Shout instructions to yourself – “Keep your eyes on the ball!” If you’ve created an anchor for yourself in practice, activate it!
While you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy the sweet success of winning.