1. Avoid becoming too much of a fan, instead of an athlete. If you’re about to play a team in your league, don’t look up their stats or find them in the newspaper. At meets, don’t watch the highest ranked teams competing against each other too much either. All of those things will make you unnecessarily nervous and not focused on what you need to do for that day.

2. Try not to think of winning as the only acceptable outcome of the event or meet. Winning is not everything! Let’s say you finally got your form right for releasing the ball, or you got your aim down to where you want it; those are exciting milestones for you. But, let’s say your didn’t win. Does that mean your milestones and achievements in that meet don’t matter? No, you still competed well despite the outcome of the game. So, don’t focus only on winning.

3. The next thing to avoid is blaming other people for an outcome that you don’t agree with. For example, the rest of your team may not be serious about getting a warm-up, or the other members of your team may not have tried their hardest. You can’t control what other people do or say, but you can control your reaction and your attitude towards them. Also, you shouldn’t put so much emphasis on what other people say and do anyway. If other people are saying things or doing things that you do not agree with, just shake it off and perform your best.

4. Also avoid thinking about just not losing. Going into a meet thinking “I better not lose” is just as bad as thinking “I better win.” It puts a lot of pressure on you and your team. Instead, just focus on doing the skills and techniques you need to do. If you focus on the small things, you’ll get the outcome you want.

5. The fifth thing to avoid is not controlling the things that you actually can control. There’s a lot of stuff that you can’t control like: who your coach is, who your teammates are, what injuries might happen, how much practice time you get before a meet etc. But, there are things you can control like how much sleep you get the night before a competition, what you eat on days with a meet, the attitude you have for practice and meets, the effort you put into practice and meets, the routine that you do before competing, etc. It is in your best interest to control the things you can and don’t stress about the things that you can’t.

6. The sixth thing to avoid is giving good opponents too much respect. If you approach a game with the attitude that the other people are better than you, then it won’t be as successful in your event. Instead, focus on making all your small skills come together seamlessly and maintaining a positive attitude and you might beat the other competitors– or at least put up a good fight. Don’t forget that being the “underdog” is not a bad thing and use it to your advantage by catching the other competitors off guard.

7. The final thing to avoid is anything that is not going to help you be a better athlete, student, and person. This includes substances and alcohol. However, it also refers to things like avoiding eating three cupcakes before a meet or chugging a Pepsi before practice. Just be smart about what you put in and around your body. Don’t let these things get in the way of you and your goals. Tom Fleming said,  “somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win.” There is more to training than just practice. If you want to be the best you have to avoid the things that will do nothing but hold you back.

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