Pre Competition Routines

How do you spend the hours before you compete? More importantly, does this time help or hinder your performance?

How do you spend the hours before you go into the heat of battle? More importantly, does this time help or hinder your performance?

If there is one thing that all of the Condor Performance clients have in common it’s that their abilities will be tested via some kind of upcoming event. For the athletes and coaches that we work with these tests tend to come in the form of sporting competitions. For everyone else (non-sporting performers) it could be an exam, a board meeting, a concert or a sales pitch. Pre Competition Routines or Pre “Huge Bloody Event” Routines, therefore, should be a mainstay of modern-day performance psychology.

In fact one of the women that I did my masters of sport psychology with went on after graduation to specialise in helping couple mentally prepare for the pressure of their wedding!

Regardless of what type it might be the same basics rules are the same. You’re trying to time your “A-Game” for that event, for when it matters. And if for any reason your A-Game is simply not possible on the day then doing whatever is required so that your B-Game is on show rather than your D-Game.

In many ways, one might sum up the work that sport psychologists do as being exactly that – helping athletes, coaches, sporting officials and non-sporting performers to be as good as possible when it counts. Note the ‘as possible’ part – trying to be excellent 100% of the time is both impossible and therefore counterproductive.

But how exactly do we go about helping athletes, coaches, sporting officials and non-sporting performers to be as good as possible when it counts?

Pre Competition Routines are Mental Skills

For a start, we take the individual differences that exist between people very seriously. What this means is that although all of the Metuf mental methods we suggest are scientifically based the way we introduce them is highly tailored to the individual. It may come as a surprise that we actually do very, very little group work. Even when we’re working with a sporting team the most common way we provide our sports psychology services is by either working with the coaching staff and/or one-on-one with their athletes.

In other words, we almost never present to the athletes as a group – it’s just not an effective way to have a long-lasting impact on their mental toughness and/or wellbeing.

The one-on-one conversations that dominate our working days and weeks basically ensure that all the psychological skills that we’re teaching are based on the needs and the wants of that person – which in many situations can be the exact opposite of what we suggested to her teammate an hour beforehand.

But the sports science ensures that despite the highly tailored nature of our work there are still common threads that keep the complex tapestry together.

One such common thread is the importance that is given to the lead up to a competition. To put it bluntly, the day or three before the competition is a time that is often skipped when looking at optimal performance strategies as it often slips between the cracks of practice and competing.

What’s The Main Aim Of A Good PCR?

In my work I consider it to be part of the competition. In other words, in many respects, competition for my clients starts with a Pre Competition Routines followed by a Competition that even sometimes ends with a quick Post Competition Review. For sports that either last a long time (cricket) and/or have long tournaments then this process can last for days or weeks rather than hours.

First of all, you need to know what the main aim of this lead-up time is – rest and relaxation.

The time for training is over now – you’re not going to get any better at catching a ball the day before the world series – nor are you going to be able to improve your fitness any on the morning of the finals. But you can easily use up some of your physical and mental resources well before the starting whistle if you are not careful.

A Real-Life Example

Over two consecutive Tuesdays, I made my way to Sydney (I live two hours again towards Canberra) in order to work with a small but exceptional group of cricket coaches. On both occasions, the workshop started at 11 am.

For the first workshop, I decided to get up early and accept that I might get stuck in traffic. So, having had breakfast far earlier than normal I left home with an hour extra in case of traffic. After an hour of driving two things happened within quick succession. First, the traffic was far worse than old mate Google Maps said it was going to be and second my wife called to say I had taken both sets of car keys and therefore she would not be able to collect the kids from school that afternoon. 

Luckily her sister was in Sydney and was planning on taking the train to our place later so all I needed to do was give her the keys. A frantic 30 minutes of phone calls later we agreed on a place for me to give her the keys but the deviation and traffic now meant that I’d only be arriving just before the first workshop with the coaches.

I tried and succeeded to a certain extent to use exactly the same kinds of stress-reducing strategies that I have spent the past 15 years teaching to my clients. I made it just before the start of the workshop and delivered it to the best of my abilities.

Feeling Better Prepared

Fast forward a week for the second workshop and this time I decided to drive down to Sydney the night before and stay with friends. For a start, there was no traffic on that Monday night and so the drive down towards the coast was actually quite relaxing. That night I went to bed early and even had time for an ocean swim the following morning before arriving with bags of time before the next workshop. I couldn’t have been more relaxed and rested and although the cricket coaches might not have noticed I felt that the lead up to the second workshop allowed me to bring my A-Game whereby I felt my B Game was the best I could manage the week before.

If you’d like help either creating or improving your Pre Competition Routines then get in touch via our Contact Form and one of our team or psychologists will get back to you with detailed information about our 1-on-1 services. 

Author: Gareth J. Mole

Gareth J. Mole is an endorsed Sport and Exercise Psychologist. He is the founder of Condor Performance and co-creator of Metuf™. He lives between Canberra and Sydney (Australia) with his wife, their two children and their fourteen chickens.