How To Perform Your Best At Your Next Competition Or Tournament

Today’s blog post is important if you’re an athlete who regularly competes in tournaments.

One of the foundational principles I teach (even my business clients) is:

Planned Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

One of the key concepts is NOT to become superstitious – if you do, you’re putting yourself at risk for no good reason. You want to create a routine, one that YOU CONTROL 100%, leaving nothing to chance.

That means you need to document it so you can follow it carefully and methodically.

If you don’t have a routine, you want to CREATE one. Here are some examples of what I do to get ready for a competition.

  • I play 2 hours/day for at least 1 week, ideally 10 days up to 2-3 days before a tournament. That gives me endurance and stamina to last if matches go to 5 games as well as quickness and speed.
  • I taper off by not playing for 2 to 3 days, depending on travel considerations. This allows me to recover and be ready with full guns blazing right from the start.
  • Each night before a game, I watch at least one professional squash match – one that I’ve seen before that highlights the player(s) that emulate what I am focusing on for the next game. If I am going to make more “kill shots”, I will watch a match with at least one player who is playing that way. I will just watch him, almost ignoring his opponent. If I am concentrating on footwork, then I will watch another match with my eyes watching their feet and not the ball… Depending on your sport, you may not have access to videos or DVDs, then substitute it with a magazine or other visual cue.
  • The reason I watch the match the night before (and just before going to sleep) is to focus my RAS on the techniques I have been practicing. Letting my subconscious do its magic.
  • I will wake up based on my match time – VERY EARLY for a morning match and later for an afternoon start time. It’s important (for me) to be awake at least 3 hours before a match, otherwise I am not alert enough to play in “peak state”. You need to test this, once again – based on your sport of choice and your own preferences.
  • I get to the squash facility one hour before my scheduled match. I’ve tried getting there closer to the start time and it throws me off if the court becomes available early – this is why you want to have a SYSTEM… To test and refine what works and what doesn’t.

There are several other things I do, but am not willing to share in a public forum… but once the countdown starts, you MUST have another ‘countdown routine’ established – to handle your nerves and re-focus your excitement and arousal. I’ve blogged about arousal levels previously so I won’t go into that now.

The ‘countdown’ routine you establish must remain within your control – don’t rely on your lucky shirt or shorts or some other superstitious crutch. Make sure your system stands on its own – preparing you for peak performance.

For example this is part of my countdown routine:

  • Go to the bathroom within 30 minutes of the start time.
  • Drink liquids BEFORE the game to make sure you don’t dehydrate.
  • Tighten shoe laces before warm up so feet are not cramped or uncomfortable when the first game starts.
  • Warm up with lunges and quad stretches to extend the muscles, but not over-stretch them.
  • Make sure you’re almost sweating before you get on the court.
  • Replay in your mind your strategy for the game. (e.g. Hit deep and tight, only go for boasts when he’s out of position OR hit as many boasts and drops to tire him out quickly.)
  • Maintain your POSITIVE self-talk with a focus on YOU and not your opponent – you can’t control him, but you can control “YOU”.
  • During the warm-up – watch for his tell signs when he hits the ball, look for weaknesses, position and movement, while maintaining your focus on the rhythm, pace and feel you want to start off with.

One last piece of advice – once you are in countdown mode, you have the right and the obligation to control everything you can. If there are friends, family and other supporters around, tell them you need to prepare and move away physically. Keep your eyes focused on your task without engaging eye contact with others. Make a point of moving around so it’s obvious you’re in ‘pre-fight’ mode.

You need this time to create what is called “concentration of focus” – you need a certain level of arousal to perform at your peak level. With time, you’ll know what that sweet spot is.

If you don’t practice routines like these that you develop and enhance, it becomes a roll of the dice each and every time.

You’ve trained too long and too hard to play the odds.

Of course every time you use your routine, you want to evaluate and assess the components and make the modifications as necessary, but not too many at once – otherwise you’re back at square one!

1 Response to “How To Perform Your Best At Your Next Competition Or Tournament”

  • You should write a book! These are great tips, and would be easily expanded upon. I especially like the idea of re-watching old matches while focussing on particular parts about it. I can see how this would be helpful in any sport. I plan on doing this before my next ballroom competition for sure!

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