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Are you in control?

The importance of the mindset in sport is gaining more attention than ever before. If you were to take two athletes that are physically identical and whose skill repertoire is the same, what is it that sets them apart?

Often the top athletes aren’t always the best physically or technically or the most ‘talented’, but are the hardest workers and the strongest mentally. How often do you see the best athletes or teams ‘scrape’ a win even though they aren’t at their best.

This video by the BBC provides just a small insight into the importance of your mindset for preparation and competing. Olympic, World and European Champions highlight the importance of  ‘controlling the controllables’ and ‘being in the moment’. Even our very own Amanda Parker, former Edgbarrow and Great Britain trampolinist, mentioned in her interview for the League Finals 2016.

“Just focus on your own performance. You have no control over what anyone else does; only you can control your own routine.”

But what is it about these concepts that can help performance?

Let’s start with ‘controlling the controllables’. This suggests that you should put your time, effort and resources into the aspects of your performance you have control over. How does this apply to a trampoline competition? Can you control whether the competition runs to time? Can you control the judges’ scores? Can you control how well your opponents compete? Can you control what the trampolines will be like or the arrangement of them? No. Can you control your preparation? Can you control the way you compete? Can you control how you respond to these situations? Absolutely.

Now I’m not suggesting that you should get to a point where you are too hung up on trying to control everything within your power. Instead, I suggest thinking of what is it you are focusing your attention on.

When you’re feeling nervous, what is it you’re feeling nervous about? Could it be you are you thinking about the scores the judges are giving or how well your opponent just did? Are you thinking about the ‘controllables’, such as your preparation and your routines, ensuring you’re mentally and physically ready to compete? When competing, it is far more beneficial to focus your attention on things that are dictated by you, than the uncontrollable factors that are not.

Focusing and controlling these ‘controllables’ can help you to feel as is if you have more control over how you respond to the situation you are in. I would encourage you to think of what is most important at that time for you, whether it’s visualising your routine, sticking to your competition preparation or maybe telling others that you need your ‘space’ to prepare. Which brings us to the next idea of ‘being in the moment’.

You may hear people talking about ‘staying in the moment’ or ‘being in the here and now’. No matter how you say it, the idea is to concentrate on that exact moment you are in, on what is happening at that very point in time. Let’s say you’ve had a couple of bad warm-ups and you’ve only got one attempt left to complete a voluntary routine or a DMT pass before your one touch. What should you be focusing on at that point?

You would be right in saying the warm-up you have coming up. However, I’m sure you can all think of times that this hasn’t been the case and you might have got hung up or worried about the warm-ups that didn’t go to plan, either as you the performer or one of your performers as you the coach.

This is where ‘staying in the moment’ links with ‘controlling the controllables’. Can you control what has happened? Can you change the past? No! But what you can control is how you respond – what you choose to focus on at that point, what you do with your last warm up. If you allow yourself to stay in the mindset of the bad warm-ups, chances are your next warm-up won’t go the way you want it. Instead, being positive with your final warm-up will be more beneficial moving forwards.

Even during a routine, if you’re thinking about a slight error that has just happened, or even something you have just done really well, you are not focusing on the move you are doing or going to do next. For sports like trampolining and DMT where the smallest of errors could have massive effects on performance, focusing on what has happened or what could happen instead of what you need to do at that exact moment can be hugely detrimental to performance.

So with all of that information, here are 4 tips that you can use to help you with your competition mindset:

  • Stop wasting energy worrying about things outside your control. Instead, remind yourself of how you want to compete and focus your attention on your preparation.
  • Ask yourself what you want to achieve? Is it 100% within your control?
  • Set process led goals instead of outcome (position or score) goals. If you achieve your process goals, the chances are you will achieve your outcome goals!
  • If things aren’t going to plan, step back, wipe the slate clean and refocus on what you need to be doing at that point in time.

Providing support across a range of sports, Emily offers one-to-one sessions, group workshops and tailored strategies for both athletes and coaches at all levels designed to enhance mental performance in sporting environments. For more information or to contact Emily: direct email or tweet her @EMsportsci.

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