Does having a mental routine improve performance?
A mental routine can help a player by:
- Increasing self-confidence – when you are able to see and feel past and future successes as part of your mental preparation, you feel more in control and confident.
- Controlling your mental energy – it is important to manage your mental energy so that your arousal and anxiety level is at a point to maximise performance. If you are too aroused, then performance decreases and if you are under aroused, performance decreases.
- Narrowing your focus – technical cues can be integrated into your routine to direct your attention towards the things you can control.
- Creating certainty – a mental routine can be something to turn to in the stressful moments leading up to competition. It brings consistency to your preparation and performance.
- Controlling mindset – this allows you to ‘get into the zone’ in order to perform at your best.
Below are suggestions on strategies to think about when designing a mental routine. It is important to firstly know what you want, decide on what strategy best suits you as a player to get you in the right mindset and thirdly design a routine. A good idea is to draw on experiences from other players and talk to individuals who know you well and can offer advice.
Imagery can be used to aid in concentration and problem solving, or to mentally rehearse a skill or task in the mind’s eye (visualisation). Mental rehearsal allows you to run through an entire routine or performance in real time. Develop your own mental rehearsal routine. Here are some tips to get started.
- Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.
- Remember a competition or time when you performed flawlessly.
- Re-create the scene, and watch yourself as you perform.
- Become aware of your surroundings; see who is there, who your opponents are; hear the sounds, and smell the smells.
- Now move back into yourself and see how it feels to perform at this level where you can do no wrong.
- Focus on each sensation, each aspect of this excellent performance. Appreciate the pleasure and confidence you experience when you perform at this level. Always envisage to a successful conclusion!
Relaxation calms you, removes tension and helps you to focus and control your actions and responses during practice and competition. There are many pre-match relaxation strategies and techniques. Some people like to listen to music or imagine a relaxing scene to slow your thoughts. To improve your ability to effectively manage your emotions during competition, try practicing these strategies.
- Find a quiet area.
- Assume a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
- Focus on your breathing, place your hands on your chest and feel the air entering your lungs.
- Concentrate on breathing to the bottom of your lungs by expanding your stomach as you breathe in.
- Allow the feeling of relaxation and looseness to flow through your body as through you are sinking into a chair.
- Breathe in through either your mouth or your nose, whichever is more comfortable and exhale through the other.
- Develop a slow, deep, rhythmic breathing pattern. You should be able to eventually reproduce this relaxation response in game situations as necessary.
Building Self Confidence
Many people believe you either have confidence or you don’t. Confidence can be improved in a variety of ways including the following:
Successful Performances – manipulate or create situations that allow you to experience success and a good performance.
Acting Confident – thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interrelated. Acting confident lifts spirits and the more confident a player acts, the more likely he is to feel confident.
Thinking confidently – thinking that you can and will achieve your goals will result in a greater chance of achieving them.
Self-Talk – thoughts and self-talk should be instructional and motivational rather than judgemental. The use of positive self-statements that focus attention to performance will build confidence.
Physical Conditioning – being in the best physical shape is another way to build confidence. Training and following good nutritional habits, gives you the confidence that you can stay out there as long as necessary to get the job done.
Preparation – being prepared gives you the confidence that you have done everything possible to ensure success. Good preparation includes a detailed plan or strategy for what you want to do regarding a pre-competition routine.
Concentration – focusing on relevant cues and having an awareness of the situation will improve confidence.