How to Finish Competition and Games Strong

It’s 90 seconds into the routine and the first place trophy is moments away from being ours. Our execution is flawless and we have never looked better but then … oh no! Someone just busted a tumbling pass which caused a ripple effect and now 3 people are unable to perform their skills. The next thing I know every stunt is falling, only the shoulder sit of the pyramid went, and the dance is a sloppy mess. How is it possible that everything started out SO PERFECTLY and then out of nowhere completely fell apart?! Why do individuals and teams start off so strong but then lose control and end up in defeat?! I have been there as an athlete and a coach, and am here to talk you through it. 

Photo Credit @snappedbybeccaclark

Maybe you are thinking, ok I am not a cheerleader and have NO IDEA what you are talking about… Then, think of that football or baseball game you watched where the team was ahead by a mile with a win in the bag only to end up losing the game. Or think about last season or school year when you started off so strong and motivated but by the end were counting down the days until it was over. The thing I am talking about here is when we allow our comfort zones to sabotage our success. As a mental performance coach, I help athletes through these processes daily.  By reading this post, you will gain insights on how you are getting in your own way and sabotaging your success as well as tips for pushing through adversity so you can finish strong and unlock your full potential.

4 Keys for Finishing The Game (& Competition) Strong

#1 Stay focused on the process

My favorite analogy to use with my athletes is the pitcher on his way to throwing a no-hitter. He is throwing strike after strike with natural ease and unshakeable confidence but the closer he gets to hitting his goal, the more nervous he becomes. Up to that point he felt relaxed and natural but then all of a sudden he feels tense and nervous, fearing he is going to mess it up… and then most of the time, he does. The main reason this happens is because he puts his eye on the prize and allows fear to sink in instead of continuing to do the things that were working. The key to finishing strong is to recognize when you begin to become distracted by the win, count, outcome or result and then shift focus back to the process and things you can do to play well each moment.

#2 Let go of limiting beliefs and overgeneralizations

A comment I often hear from my athletes sounds something like, “This game will be tough …”, or “We probably won’t do well in competition because …”. They overgeneralize and make assumptions about how things are going to go based on past experiences. This is not helpful or true because you cannot predict a future outcome based on a past experience as the circumstances are not the same. This also causes athletes to change their approach and either try too little or hard which can result in a poor performance. Another thing to be let go of is negative self-labels. If an athlete things they are not a closer or do not perform well in certain situations then they most likely will struggle. To achieve success, you must get rid of negative expectations and labels that tell you that you can only accomplish certain things or that you will not be successful and replace them with ones that are more helpful and true.

#3 Play functionally, not perfect

A huge challenge for athletes is entering competition with a practice mindset. Their focus is on playing perfectly, fixing mistakes, and making up for errors which causes them to overcontrol, overthink, perform tense, and lose composure when things are not going their way. You have seen performances where everything is going great and then 1 little thing causes everything to fall apart… this is a big reason why that happens. If this is something you struggle with, try to go into your performance with a simple goal of getting the job done. This means that you set 1-2 process focused goals that help you stay focused in the moment and on task and then let the rest go. Let go of mistakes and allow every skill or play to be like they only play that matters. Let go of judgment for mistakes or things that didn’t look or feel exactly right and reset back to your process goals. The secret is to leave room for error and integrate your successes into your confidence so you can continue to achieve your goals.

#4 Push Past Comfort Zones

As humans we have an internal comfort zone or ‘normal’ that we operate in. That means that we experience a certain level of happy, sad, good, bad, joy, fear, etc daily. In competition, this means that we have a certain level of success and failure that we are used to which creates our comfort zone. When we go outside of our comfort zone, our bodies go into ‘protect mode’ and we self-sabotage to remain where we are … safe. Even though this is natural, this is not what is best for us. We need to consistently push ourselves forward and reset our ‘normal’ as we improve in different areas of our lives. This means that when you go into a game and are doing better than you normally do, that you let go of the “I can’t believe…” and embrace the “Of course I am!”. When things are going well, keep doing what is working and step into that higher performing zone.

You’ve got this! Now that you have the 4 keys for finishing competition strong you can break through that glass ceiling and step into your next level of success. I am here cheering you on and supporting you! If you found these tips helpful and would like to learn more about the process of establishing Mental Game Habits for success, we have the perfect challenge for you! Check out (and get enrolled in) our Habit Builder Challenge which officially kicks off in January. Visit to enroll today! Use coupon code FINISHSTRONG for 10% off

The content is great but real change happens in the application. The most important thing I do for my clients is to keep them accountable for applying their mental game skills every practice and game. I offer them support so they never have to stay stuck.

I am here to support you. A performance check coaching session is a great way for me to learn more about where you are and your goals and to identify any gaps. I am only able to work with a limited number of clients at a time to be most effective so If you are interested in learning more, make sure you reserve your spot today. Sign up now by clicking here.

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