The Athlete Mindset: Reactionary Versus Responsive Behaviour

If you are chasing after another athlete you will always be behind them – waiting for them to make the next move. It is better to lead yourself than follow another.

Athletes base much of their outcome strategy on being able to intuitively produce the right action at the right time.

This forms part of their belief systems, instinctive direction and ultimately the sustained success of their performance.

When working with professional athletes, it is important that their internal drive and external performance needs are personally tailored to them.

However this very specific objective sometimes leads to some confusion for athletes and coaches around being either reactionary or being responsive!

These two actions may sound very similar in nature – but they have two very different drivers and consequences.

If we look at the specific behaviour of the ‘reactionary’ athlete, they are reacting to any and all situations:

  • a perceived external force on them, such as their environment;
  • the venue conditions;
  • the pressure; and probably more importantly
  • the other competitors actions

These athletes let their performances be directed, dictated and controlled by interpretation of their current situation – assessing – reacting – reassessing.

This mindset places the athlete in a constant observational role, not an action role. These athlete are then in damage control mode or constantly playing catch up as they wait for something to happen or someone to act before they can assess and react.

They have essentially surrendered their control over their performance to an external force limiting their options to counter actions.

When a Mind Coach builds an athlete’s optimal performance strategy, it is tailored specifically to that athlete and their skill-set and objective. It is not based on another athletes agenda or objective.

So by being a reactionary athlete and deviating from the designed path in order to react to another’s actions, an athlete is detracting from their own optimal performance strategy and objective.

I often tell athletes, ‘If you are chasing after another athlete then you will always be behind them – waiting for them to make the next move – it is better to lead yourself than follow another.’

The reactionary approach essentially ties the athlete into following their competitors path not their own.

If we now look at the specific behaviour of the ‘responsive’ athlete, these athletes have both their physical and psychological performances primed and ready to strike in a specific way, thus making them responsive to their own needs. This also allows them to make informed performance decisions based on their ability and their objective.

These athletes posses behavioural flexibility and can manoeuvre their performance within their optimal strategy based on their outcomes and situational needs. This gives the athlete the freedom and control to perform towards their objective and not be looking, judging and reacting to what others are or are not doing and using that as their gauge.

This single-minded focus gives our athletes clarity, objectivity, control and an optimally designed path to follow. This lowers performance anxiety and any second-guessing to what is coming next and also allows athletes to select the path that is right for them.

So the next time someone advises you they want you to have better reactions – tell them you would rather be responsive and compete on your own terms not those of your competitors!

There will always be environmental conditions or personal conditions outside the athletes control, so it is important an athlete remains open minded, cognisant of their ability and primed – responsive and ready to tap into their resources when called on.

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