It is finally here! Competition season is ramping up and emotions may be high. After months of preparation which seemed to last forever, the countdown is on for the first competition of the season and fears may be starting to take over. Whether you are getting ready for your 1st or your 100th competition, you probably are starting to notice the butterflies and jitters begin and it can be scary! You are not alone if you are feeling the pressure. Know that everyone you are competing with and against is feeling it. But what if there was a better way? What if you didn’t have to be filled with anxiety and fear? What if it is possible to show up to your competition or game with confidence and excitement? If this sounds too good to be true, keep reading!
Competition day does not have to be filled with nerves … today I am sharing my top 5 mental game tips for making the butterflies work for you on competition day. By putting these into practice, you can simply show up and have fun dominating your performance!
Before I jump in to the top 5 STEPS TO MENTALLY PREPARE FOR COMPETITION, I want to share with you 3 game-changing ideas that will totally change how you think about competition day.
- Butterflies are good! You know the feeling … flutters in your stomach that often are accompanied by shaky legs, sweat, increased heart rate, and more. What you are actually experiencing is adrenaline. Your body is preparing you to enter into a circumstance that is out of your comfort zone. Our bodies like to keep us safe, so it creates reactions when we enter into new experiences where the outcome is unknown. Did you know that this response is actually created to help you prepare to compete? Think of this as a wake-up call where your body is actually telling you, “Hey, we are about to do some crazy awesome things here so I need you to be alert and ready!” Imagine if you didn’t have this reaction… What if you walked into the competition arena feeling like it was an ordinary Monday heading to school?! NO WAY, That would be no fun! So the next time the nerves startup, know that they are actually giving you the energy that you need to be alert, focused, and ENERGIZED to compete. Thank you butterflies and welcome!
- Make the butterflies work for you! There is one simple act can make a huge difference when it comes to dealing with nerves on competition day. Instead of saying “I am so nervous!”, tell yourself “I am excited!”. Our self-talk is POWERFUL! We are in total control of this as well as our response to our circumstances. Consider for a moment the feeling of being nervous … heart racing, sweaty palms, shaking, tension in your gut, etc. Now let’s imagine the feeling of being excited … heart racing, sweaty palms, shaking, tension in your gut, you get the idea… YOUR BODY PROCESSES NERVES AND EXCITEMENT THE EXACT SAME WAY! The only difference is how you interpret the response. Instead of telling yourself you are nervous and letting the feeling zap you of your energy, tell yourself “I am excited”. By doing this, you are taking control. Embrace those jitters and allow them to fill you with energy. Add in a few “I am awesome” and “I love competition” self-talk statements and you are ready to conquer your day!
- Having a plan is a must! Okay, so maybe this one isn’t that mind-altering, but it is SO IMPORTANT! One of the biggest stressors on athletes during competition is the feeling of not being prepared. I will discuss some mental prep below, but physical prep is a must for competition day success. The week of your competition make a list of all the things you need to do to feel 100% prepared and excited to compete. A few common tasks I would make sure you include are: 1) clean and pack uniform, 2) make a meal and snack plan for the day (and prep food when possible), 3) make a timeline for when you will wake up/ take a shower/ eat/ leave the house/ etc. 4) plan to arrive EARLY, 5) Get your mental game prepped and ready! One final note is to decide what your practice will look like the week leading up to your competition. Consider, how can you practice implementing your “competition ready” mindset. Make a plan to spend ½ of the last 2-3 practices before your competition with the same energy you would bring to your performance on the big day. Turn off the training and perform with energy and trust. Believe me, this will be fun and will set you up so well for your performance.
Now let’s get mentally prepared! Below are my 5 STEPS TO MENTALLY PREPARE FOR COMPETITION
- Decide what standards or demands you are placing on your performance. I call these expectations. Where are you placing pressure on yourself to produce a specific result or outcome? Some of the most common expectations I see are, “I have to win”, “I have to score a XX result”, “I can’t make any mistakes”, “we have to get a trophy or our coach will be disappointed”. Take 3 minutes and write these down. Once you have written all of your expectations down, take a marker and cross each of them off or shred the paper. This is you symbolically throwing away your expectations. This will release pressure and allow you space to focus on the things that are essential for performing well.
- Identify the key things you need to focus on to set yourself up for success. I like to call these performance goals. I recommend that you write down your top 3 skills that cause you pressure or anxiety on game day. These are the skills where you likely worry and focus on not messing up or hope things will go well. Focusing on not messing up or leaving your success to chance with hopes is not going to help you perform well. INSTEAD, what can you focus on that will help you execute in the moment? For example, if you are a cheerleader or gymnast who is worried about landing a tumbling pass, you can tell yourself to “run strong”, “take big steps” or “swing my arms fast”. These will help you prepare to stay in the moment and focus on things that will ACTUALLY help you execute. Goals can be physical as well as mental. Some good mental goals are to “stay focused”, “commit to the play”, “play simple”, and “trust the plan”. These deal with your mindset and how you want to show up. I have included a freebie below that will help with this so be sure to check it out!
- Let go of the idea that your warm-up has to be perfect for you to perform well. Remember, it is called a WARM-UP for a reason! It is meant to be a time for you to warm-up your skills and to prepare to compete. So often athletes make assumptions about their warm-up where they truly believe they are doomed if they do not warm-up at 100%. This is a good time to revisit #1 above if you are having trouble with this. You cannot expect to win warm-ups because there is no such thing! Before you even get to your competition or game, decide what you will do in your warm-up to feel ready to compete and ACCEPT THAT PERFECTION IS NOT THE GOAL! Think of it as the time to start ramping up your focus and motivation level so that you are ready to peak right as your performance begins. Write down I do not have to win warm-ups. You can and likely have experienced a good performance after a poor warm-up in the past so agree to let it go now. Bye pressure!
- Remember to have fun! You have worked so hard to train your skills. You have done everything you can up to this point to be as prepared as possible and now it is time to stop training. Competition day is about trusting yourself and allowing space to play freely. Resist the urge to try to overcontrol and make corrections. Take a moment to mentally review everything you have done to prepare yourself for the day. What has gone well? Why should you feel confident going into competition day? Make a list of these things and use it to fuel your confidence so that you can trust that you are prepared. Turn off the training! Enter competition day ready to show off your hard work and enjoy the thrill of competition. If not now, then when will you let loose and enjoy all your hard effort?! So get your competition day playlist ready and get excited about your day!
- Walk away satisfied, every time. “I can’t believe our stunt fell”, “How bad was I off count during the dance”, “did my coach notice that I bobbled”, “I wonder what my parents thought of our performance”… STOP! The post-performance analysis does NOT have to begin the second you are finished. So often athletes leave the floor with regret and feeling of loss EVEN IF THEY PERFORMED WELL! Save the analysis for your next practice. Instead of letting the frustration and disappointment overwhelm you and take away from the awesome experience of competing, say “that was so much fun!” Start recapping what went well. IF YOU MUST, acknowledge 1 or 2 things max that could have gone better. Decide how you will take action at your next practice to begin improving these things. THEN LET IT GO! Perfection does not exist and mistakes will happen. So often, perfection is the bar and standard we set for our performance, and that will ONLY lead to disappointment. It blinds you to all the awesome things that happen and robs you of your confidence and fun. Decide now, you will walk off the floor with your head high and no regrets. Remind your teammates how many things went well and then go have fun together!
Following these tips will help you prepare for competition in a way that makes the butterflies work for you! You are in control. Work hard in practice, prepare yourself mentally and physically to compete, and let yourself enjoy the day. You are amazing and can absolutely, confidently perform AND GET AMAZING RESULTS! Let the energy flow and have fun. 😊
Do you love freebies? I know I do!
Are ready to take your performance to the next level while gaining more confidence and having way more fun? To help, I have created a freebie for you. Follow the link below to get your Competition Day Energy Audit. As I mentioned, you are in total control of the energy you bring to your performance. Print this guide and on competition day, decide 1) what energy you are currently in, and 2) what energy you are CHOOSING TO BE IN. This is the first step to taking control and not letting your nerves and jitters get the best of you. You are in full control of your emotions and energy so use this guide to prove it!