Post Competition Reviews

Chris Pomfret, Senior Performance Psychologist from Condor Performance looks at the pros and cons of Post Competition Reviews.

“Oh Boy, I bet coach is going to show the mistakes I made on the big screen.”

What Are Post Competition Reviews?

Recently, I received an excellent question from one of our monthly clients regarding post-competition reviews. This person competes in an individual sport and has just finished a big weekend of racing… living the dream. A disappointing overall result was causing great frustration, and they were second-guessing themselves as a racer and wondering exactly where all the hard work this season was leading them.

They realised this was in complete contrast to a competition only one week before, where a strong result prompted positive emotions and had them feeling optimistic about the future. Many of our discussions had been about taking a consistent approach before every competition, and their question was how they should approach the hours and days following a competition – win, lose, or draw.

The first thing we reflected on was enjoyment and ensuring that they did not lose sight of what drew them into the sport in the first place. These things have kept them participating and want to maintain this in the long run. Given that they compete in a physically brutal sport, we distinguished between the fun elements (e.g., the things that elicit a big smile) and the deeper, more meaningful elements (e.g., the things that make them proud and challenge them).

Self-Reflection Is Key

Next, we reflected on the nature of the results themselves. No matter how easy or difficult, we can only influence results to a certain degree. We can impact the various outcomes in our chosen sport (a fast lap time, winning a heat, making a podium, being selected in a representative team), but we can never guarantee them. This isn’t to give ourselves an excuse for a disappointing performance or pretend that it doesn’t matter to us but to bring our focus back to our weekly effort so that we can keep improving and ultimately shift results in our favour.

We then spoke about strategies for emotional release. Emotions are neither good nor bad – they are a primitive way of understanding our experiences. Of course, I would rather feel happy than sad, but that doesn’t make happy ‘better’ than sad. The key thing is the intensity of the emotion and how we manage it. Most athletes do think about – and practice – regulating their emotions in the lead-up to a competition or when performing. Most athletes don’t consider how to handle intense emotions (desirable or unwanted) once they have finished competing.

Whatever works for you in the lead-up to a competition is probably a good place to start in learning to handle yourself post-competition. As a general rule, feelings are expressed through the body, so often the quickest and easiest way to release that emotional ‘steam out of the kettle’ is by physical means such as deep breathing, movement, warm-downs, physical focus points such as stretching, or sensory stimulation such as showering. No matter the emotion you are experiencing, work on empowering yourself by releasing the emotion on your terms. Unreleased emotions can be problematic in the long term.

A Possible Framework for The Analysis Of Performances

Next, we discussed a specific framework for reviewing competitions mentally. We put aside important physical considerations such as fitness, strength and conditioning, training loads, flexibility, amount and quality of sleep the night before performing. Then, we set aside non-sporting factors such as family, friendships, school, work, finances and life stressors. We also put aside technical aspects of the performance (the biomechanics and tangible skill execution within races). Finally, we also set aside tactical considerations (decision-making) as these are issues that are constantly being reviewed by the coaching staff. This left us with the following categories, to which I posed the following questions:


How strong was your desire to perform well in this competition? How much importance did you place on this weekend’s events? Looking back, what signs tell you that your heart was really in it? If we were to say this was just another set of races in a long career, why did you push yourself to do your best again? How are you rewarding yourself for putting in so much hard work? Can you put into words what makes weekends like this so special, especially when things do go to plan?


How well could you focus on what you wanted to focus on? What things captured your attention before, during and post-race? Were you aware of this happening? Have you practised dealing with distractions? What are a few simple but relevant things you can focus on when next competing?


If confidence is knowing that you can do something before you try, where is the evidence (e.g. through practice and past competitions) that tells you what is possible? How well can you feel what you want to before and during races? Do you have a Plan B for when you don’t feel confident just before the green light?


What messages were you sending yourself? What messages were you sending other people (verbally and non-verbally)? Were these deliberate? Have you practised them? Do you have a sense of how effective they are?


Were your thought processes systematic, simple, clear and well-rehearsed? Were you viewing external factors such as opponents, officials, weather conditions, equipment, facilities and spectators in a manner that suits you and your individual needs?


How were you viewing your coaching staff, support crew, team members, and the wider group of athletes coming together? What was your sense of connection and belonging like? Are you feeling part of a broader community, and does this need to be worked on somehow?


Like so much in elite and competitive sports, Post Competition Reviews can only really be considered useful or not when we look at how they’re done. In my experience, these reviews are too often used for the coaching staff to vent about poor results and performances. The Monday morning horror show of the weekend’s mistakes being edited and spliced together. Why? To show the players how they f*%$ed up so they won’t do it again 🤬.

I hope this short article gives readers insight into a potentially better way.

If you’d like one of our psychologists’ assistance with your performance, complete one of our four Mental Toughness Questionnaires here. A member of our team will be in touch with you to discuss options normally within two or three business days.

Pre Shot Routines

Pre Shot Routines might be the most common of the short routines used before closed sporting skills, but they’re not the only type of short routine.

A good pre-shot routine can be half the battle with improving the mental side of target-based sports such as shooting, lawn bowls, golf, etc.

What Are Pre Shot Routines (PSRs)?

Pre Shot Routines are the most common short-performance routines, but they are not the only type. Any closed motor skill required constantly during a sporting context could and should have a routine beforehand. A closed motor skill is an action or series of actions typically ‘performed in a stationary environment, where the performer chooses when to start the skill’.

If we did some brainstorming, we could probably come up with dozens of labels suited to different sports, but in my work as a sport psychologist, these six are the most common:

  • Pre Shot Routines for Golf, shooting sports, table sports, lawn bowls.
  • Pre-Point Routines (or you can have Pre-Serve Routines and Pre-Receive Routines) for all racquet sports, such as tennis, squash, table tennis, badminton, and paddleball (pickleball), to name the most common.
  • For AFL, soccer/football (set shot takers), rugby league, rugby union and American football (kickers), we’d use the term Pre Kick Routine.
  • The term Pre Start Routines is probably best for most racing sports, from swimming to motorsports to track and field.
  • Pre-Ball Routine … you guessed it – cricket and baseball.

What Is The Generic Term?

To my knowledge, no agreed term describes all of these mental skills. Probably because Pre-Shot Routines tend to be the most common, they are often used to describe most others. This is reasonable for all of the above examples other than racing sports. Most tennis players will instinctively know what you’re referring to if you use the term pre-shot routine instead of pre-point routine. But I suspect you might not get a great response if you tell a 200-meter sprinter that you’ll be working on their pre-shot routine during the sessions.

Pre Shot Routines Before Closed Motor Skills

For all closed motor skills, the athletes will always have at least a few seconds before attempting the action. Left ‘to wing it on the day,’ these few seconds (or few minutes) can often become fertile grounds for overthinking. This tends to lead to underperforming in high-pressure situations.

There is one main rule for constructing or improving any pre-shot routine. Only include easily repeatable actions. In other words, the only premeditated aspects of the routines are body movements. Thoughts and feelings are left to occur naturally at the time. You have too little influence on them to ensure you can “do them” when it counts.

Intended actions are far more reliable than thoughts and feelings. Indeed, they are so reliable that we can (with a lot of practice) virtually guarantee them. We can never guarantee that we will be able to think a certain way in certain situations. So, trying to do so is fraught with danger from a psychological point of view.

The Classic ‘Pre Shot Routine’

Start with this question. Is one Pre Shot Routine enough, or do I need several? For most sports, one is normally sufficient. Attempting a 3-foot putt versus a long drive in sports like golf might seem too different to justify having two different PSRs ready to go. For racquet sports, starting the point or receiving the ball from the server is very different, so I would encourage at least two.

The start of the Pre Shot Routine benefits from ‘a trigger action’. This helps us switch it on at that moment. For a sport like lawn bowls, maybe this is wiping your hand on your pant leg.

After this initial action, add three to five other steps that naturally lead to the “shot”. Any more than this, and you run the risk of overcomplicating it.

For example, one of these steps in clay target shooting is to shout ‘pull’. A baseball pitcher and a cricket bowler have no choice but to include correctly gripping the ball during their pre-ball routines.

Pre Point Routines

Rafa’s Pre Point Routines are amongst the many aspects of his tennis that make him so very hard to beat

Of course, we have all seen Rafa going through his pre-point rituals. It might seem more like a set of ticks to the untrained eye. But Rafa’s Pre Point Routines are amongst the many aspects of his tennis that make him so good.

Racquet sports are interesting as only the serve is a closed skill because the receiver doesn’t decide when to receive the ball. However, I have always found that having a Pre-Serve Routine and a Pre-Receive Routine is a good plan in my work with tennis players.

The good old face clean with a towel is hard to beat as a starting trigger for both the server and the receiver. The rest of the routine needs to be aligned with what is required in a few seconds. If you’re about to receive the ball, walking to the right spot and taking the right body position might want to be included. If you’re serving, bouncing the ball, pausing, and slowly looking up can be great inclusions.

Ball Bouncing

Ball bouncing (waggling the golf club, same as) is a double-edged sword. Most players do it “until they feel right,” but this assumes you’ll always feel right at some point. I am in favour of picking a range of bounces. For example, 2 or 3 and then sticking to this 100% of the time. Yes, even in practice and when doing it as part of your visualisation.

If decision-making is taken seriously as part of the practice, this will become as automatic as the skills developed around them. In other words, choosing where to serve only becomes cognitively demanding if you have excluded tactical preparation as part of your practice.

Pre-Kick and Throw Routines

Because these actions are part of fast-flowing sports, they are often not considered in the same group of closed skills as the previous examples. In my opinion, this is a huge missed opportunity for the kickers and free throwers of these sports.

In the 1-on-1 work we do with kickers and throwers, I treat them like golfers. But instead of a golf club and ball, they have their leg, feet, arms, hands, and an inflated ball.

First, as with golfers, we agree on the ideal number of routines after going through the pros and cons of one versus several. For example, a rugby union player may need one for set shots and another for kickoffs.

After this, we follow the same rules as before. Only use actions to build the Pre Kick/Throw Routine. If you must include a thought, keep it as simple as possible.

Is It A Good Idea To Visualise As Part Of My Routine?

I have received criticism for my lack of enthusiasm about including imagery in routines 😬. Some of this comes from the famous Jack Nicklaus quote about visualisation. “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head,” Nicklaus said.

Here is the issue, Jack. We can’t guarantee cognitive processes such as imagining the path of a ball. Even with repetition, it will be very vulnerable under pressure or high levels of distraction.

The solution to this conflict is two-fold. First, practice the visualisation part as part of your PKR in practice 100% of the time so it feels automatic (second nature). Second, don’t stress if it’s hard or impossible come game time. It’s not that you are weak, it’s the thoughts are weak. Your action-based Pre Shot Routines will get the job done regardless of your thoughts or feelings.

If you’d like the assistance of one of our psychologists with your short routines, then complete one of our four Mental Toughness Questionnaires here. A member of our team will be in touch with you to discuss options normally within two or three business days.

Vulnerability And Team Cohesion

This 10 minute read and ‘must share’ feature article by our founding performance psychologist Gareth is on the topic of Vulnerability And Emotional Courage and how these misunderstood concepts relate to team cohesion.

Vulnerability And Team Cohesion Go Hand In Hand

How Important Are Words?

I have often pondered how important it is to use the correct word. Both in professional situations as well as personal ones. Yes, maybe it’s the flight of an overthinker, but the fact is that words matter.

As a sports psychologist, does it go against the Psychological Flexibility framework that underpins all of my consulting to insist that certain words are better than others in specific situations?

Let me use an example before diving into the main dish of vulnerability and team cohesion. Some clients will know I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘mistake’. From time to time, I have suggested that we even consider replacing this loaded term with the far more accurate and potentially beneficial phrase of ‘unfortunate occurrence’.

I will endeavour to write an entire article on this subject in due course, but here is the gist. Too many athletes take too much blame when something unfortunate happens during competition(s).

Imagine a team sport like volleyball where serving is a significant deal. Let’s consider a scenario in which one of the players cannot find any rhythm when starting the points. Are these mistakes? Or are they simply unfortunate occurrences? For me, to use a word like mistake (and the potential shame that comes with it) when the volleyball player – in this example – is trying her best seems wrong. Maybe a mistake is when the error was made on purpose. Very, very rare, but not unheard of, think of a tennis player tanking the rest of a game or set. If you are not stuffing up on purpose, then it’s not a mistake. It’s an unfortunate occurrence.

Back To Vulnerability

But I digress. The word vulnerability wasn’t used much in applied or academic sport psychology until recently. 

So, let’s look at the actual word itself. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word vulnerability means ‘able to be easily hurt, influenced, or attacked’. Hmm, that doesn’t sound that great! The Merriam-Webster free online dictionary isn’t much better with ‘capable of being physically or emotionally wounded’.

The appeal to want to become more vulnerable takes an even bigger blow when you look at the origins of the via Etymonline (below) 😬.

Brené Brown’s Work

Due to the smallness of performance psychology as a profession, more often than not, the research needs to come from a more generic source. And this is certainly the case here where the work by the legendary Brené Brown put vulnerability and related concepts on the map.

Before I stumbled across the work of Brené Brown, I must admit that I was guilty of not seeing the hidden benefits of learning to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s like sport itself. Maybe you need to do it to have an idea of what it’s really like. So this I did.

The Bridge in Kentucky, USA

Partially for personal reasons and partially for professional reasons, earlier this year, I spent two weeks at a facility in Kentucky, USA, called The Bridge. For those who follow the work of Dr Peter Attia, it’s the same Bridge he attended and mentions in his highly recommended book Outlive.

I will not include a full breakdown of my experience in The Woods of Kentucky, mostly because a thorough account of the entire program would be a far more appropriate subject for an entire book, not a 1000-word blog article. However, I’m happy to disclose that one of the most significant inclusions of the process was learning to be vulnerable in a group setting.

And when it’s done properly and professionally (and boy, was it), there is no substitute from a team cohesion and togetherness point of view. In 14 days, we went from a group of complete strangers to people who feel more like family than friends.

Emotional Courage

I know that for some reading this, it’s just semantics, but in 2024, before the world catches up, maybe what I was taught at The Bridge is better described as emotional courage. And I couldn’t help but notice when Googling Brené’s website to link it above the blurb in the search results puts the word courage first: Brené Brown is a researcher and storyteller who’s spent two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.

The courage to let down the walls and let your real feelings come out. Brené correctly describes doing this type of work properly is messy. And messy it is, but necessarily messy. Unavoidably messy if you want the benefits on the other side. 

Team sports athletes – especially the men 😬 – are typically not very emotionally courageous with each other, and maybe this is necessary if the facilitator is not trained and experienced. Like dentistry, if it is not done properly, it can backfire and be disastrous.

But one thing is for sure. We will ensure that our growing team of sport and performance psychologists gets the appropriate skills training in this area. We will be ready to assist when the sporting world fully embraces vulnerability as a mental skill to be taken seriously. If you can’t wait until then, feel free to get in touch via Our Contact form beforehand (like now).