Mental Preparation for Competition

Preparing to perform comes with no shortage of hours in the gym, stunt practice and technique honing. You’ll undoubtedly have worked a routine hundreds of times, focusing on every detail. But there’s another aspect to preparation that’s all too often overlooked, but equally important: mental preparation.

You can have practiced and perfected to a tee, but if you get on the floor and your head’s not “in the game,” you’re unlikely to do your best. Here are a few ways to improve mental preparedness before a performance:

1 – Experiment until you find what works for you. Mentally preparing does not look the same or work the same for every athlete. Michael Phelps jams out (apparently) to metal music before hopping in the water. That may not work for you. Perhaps for you it’s classical or even listening to your music and mentally rehearsing. Maybe it’s taking a few minutes to practice breathing exercises to clear your head. There are tons of options; try a few and see what your magic technique is to release nerves, relax and find focus.

2 – Build it into your pre-routine routine. Routines are a way of life for a reason. They naturally ease our mind and prepare us for what’s ahead by simply letting us know what to expect. That ability to predict what’s ahead automatically helps give us peace and minimize stressors. Make mental preparation part of your “pre-game” routine. By dedicating a time, that mental preparation will become an automatic step and you’ll ensure that you take those few minutes every time without even thinking about it.

3 – Learn to quiet “the voices.” We all have little voices in our head. Sometimes they’re encouraging, but all too often, they bring to our attention the negatives and the “what ifs.” Learn to shut out those voices as they creep into your mind. If you don’t, they’ll sabotage your mental game; by learning to control them, you can better prepare yourself to focus and drive success.

4 – Build yourself up. Sometimes, you have to fake ‘till you make it. And sometimes, just a little self-coaching can do the trick to getting you there. Give yourself a pep talk before every performance—either in your head as part of your pre-performance routine or aloud in front of the mirror before you leave the house. “You can do this. Remember to __________. You’ve got it.”

Half of winning is in our head. It’s in how you set yourself up to view the experience, how you embrace or avoid what scares you and how you view yourself. Beyond your practices and quest to perfect every skill, take the time to perfect your mental “game,” too. It, too, takes practice and time—but like physical practice, it always pays off in the end.

CJ Pugh is the Owner of PCT Cheer & Tumble. He is a father of two young boys, a passionate coach and, a life-long learner.

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