Top 10 Worst Thoughts Before a Meet
- “I have to…” win this race, event etc.
- “I need to…”
- “I ought to…” come in the top 3 etc.
- “I should…” beat my opponents, etc.
- “I must…” win or else… etc.
- “This is it OR This is everything..”
- “Do or die”
- “Make it or break it”
- “It’s now or never”
- “Don’t miss “OR “Don’t (anything)” fall, mess up, disappoint my teammates, etc.
All competitions and practices are important, but nothing is “special.” When you make a particular competition “special,” you are most likely to put additional pressure on yourself, which can cause you to change your approach and deviate from the very actions that got you success up until this point in time. Most likely adding this pressure will cause a physical response in the body tightening up. It is impossible to compete at your highest level when you are tight. Track and field events require a level of intensity yes, but they also requires your body to be loose and agile, not tight and rigid. Did you know, it is impossible to run your fastest, jump your longest, or throw your furthest when your body is tight?
Almost all athletes talk to themselves. No one has to teach you to do that. However you likely do need to be taught HOW to speak to yourself in a productive and empowering way. The words you use in your self-talk are extremely important. It is best to use phrases like, “I will,” “I choose to…” “I want to,” “I’m going to.” Approach competition with a willful attitude, not an obligatory one. Contrary to popular belief, we know that we can control the way we feel by controlling our thoughts. Our feelings follow our thoughts, not the other way around. This is a necessary lesson to learn as an athlete in any sport. While the rest of the world reacts to their feelings, you must learn to control your thoughts, thereby controlling your feelings.
Pep talks are Hollywood. Listen to Olympic and professional athletes interviews. They always speak about consistency. In the real world, great athletes stress “being myself,” “doing my own thing,” “Being me.” It is impossible to have consistent performances without consistent thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Even if you are heading into the championship meet, your thoughts should be consistent with the rest of the season that got you to that meet. When you have the mentality that every practice is just as important as any other, and every meet is just as important as the championship meet, you will have a great season. Create practice situations that make your practices feel more like a real meet. Race and compete HARD against your teammates. Your intensity at practice needs to be such that you are at the world championships on a daily basis. To bring this approach into the meet, remember to have the same intensity level, killer instinct, and effort in the first minute of the game as you do in the last.
In other words, great performers approach their sport with high intensity, confidence, and serenity each practice and each competition. They rarely change their approach, strategy, or mindset physically or mentally before one competition, and neither will you.