Posts Tagged ‘competition strategy’

The Athlete Mindset: Reactionary Versus Responsive Behaviour

Friday, May 18th, 2012

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.

The Assassination of a Sporting Performance: Have you been Implicated?

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

If you are a professional coach or a coach at any serious competitive level, you may have experienced this.

You have spent years physically and technically preparing an athlete for the ‘big competition’, the one stand out event that will synergistically bring all that hard work together; set them apart from the crowd; and cement their name in sporting contention.

Only to find on the day they implode and choke!

Bearing witness as their minds spontaneously combust into a scrambled mess, a coach can only watch the athlete’s precision-controlled limbs take on a zombie-possessed life of their own. Their ability to problem-solve appears left in the trunk of the car along with that old gym sock, sweaty towel… and maybe now their hopes and dreams.

As a coach at this point you begin to wonder who the hell is this athlete?

Where is my athlete, the one I have spent all that time and effort in building?

Why did I not see this coming, how could I have got it so wrong?

What do I do now?

Relax…

… This is a very common scenario.

However, it is a scenario that frequently spawns a reaction that involves a complete re-evaluation of the whole process, the training schedule, the fitness structure and the technical application of the core skills!

This overhaul is time-consuming, disheartening and quite frankly probably totally unnecessary.

STOP – before you begin to unravel years of work and your coaching philosophy built up over a lifetime, first understand what has really happened here by following this simple process:

1. Was it really a train-crash or simply just a wrong turn?

Lets start by taking the high level emotions out of the situation and looking at it clinically.

2. From a disassociated perspective, ask “What could I do differently next time?”

Think backwards to the point where the wheels on the track first began to wobble and before the athlete careered out of control!

3. Did the wobble initiate weeks ago or was the first major wobble on competition day?

I often hear coaches speak of the athlete letting the pressure of the competition moment get to them or they allowed their competitors to get inside their heads or their confidence was shattered by their performance as they lost focus and objectivity.

As much as these may be contributing factors to the final derailment of the athletes performance the reality is the real core inefficiency is probably in the approach, for specifically the lack of structured approach.

The Competition Approach

The competition approach, is just that – the days leading into the competition and the day of the competition right up to where the athlete takes to the spot to perform. I refer to this as the 7-2 funnel process.

I have been working with coaches and athletes my whole adult life and it’s the most rewarding profession I can imagine. And after all these years, I would consider the ability of a coach to ‘effectively’ mentally prepare their athlete for their performance day as one of their most valuable skills. On competition day and in much of what an athlete does, educating an athlete how to be responsive rather than reactionary is all in the planning.

Humans are creatures of habit, we are also by nature essentially quite lazy (although we ‘sell’ it as being efficient) and will follow a well-trodden and established path when faced with no obvious solution rather than assess and innovate a new tailored path. In fact, we are hardwired to seek out such established patterns and to be an early and loyal adopter.

Because of this most coaches follow the same system for competition – blindly applying time after time, athlete after athlete.

However these final steps before their performance is such a critical time for the athlete, a crucial time where they need to be focused, emotionally neutral, clear, concise and precise about their objective, confident that they can deliver what is required and comfortable in knowing that all the boxes have been ticked and that everything that could have been done has been done.

Often the reality is we see two polarities, where coaches and athletes are either completely disengaged or wholly consumed by the moment, following no obvious structured and designed approach, they are emotionally charged thus reactionary to everyone else’s movements and unable to apply what they have trained for or know to be the right move for them.

I also see coaches correcting intricate technique or even teaching the athlete new skills just before they take to the competitive arena.

This disorganised approach is a mental minefield as it is widening of the athletes focal aspect not a narrowing of their focal precision.

Last minute hurdles placed into their path is not beneficial to the athlete and in fact greatly inhibits them from performing at their optimum as it splits and defocuses their ability to mentally reproduce and apply.

Instead of emotionally loading them up, sludging their thought processes and giving them little opportunity to build confidence (a history of success), the key to preparing an athlete to perform efficiently and effectively involves funnelling the athlete into a heightened state of awareness and specificity of focus, ticking boxes and disengaging what isn’t needed to make them mentally leaner and more efficient.

So when you think about how YOU currently approach competition, are you mentally weighing them down? Do you have a replicable system that is prepping your athlete for success?