Today’s Topic: Ideal Mindset Before the Big Competition
Hi, guys. Welcome to Q&A with Coach Rebecca. I am Rebecca Smith, a High Performance Coach, and the Founder and Director of Complete Performance Coaching, a group of awesome, mental coaches, that all, specialize in helping young athletes deal with anxiety, fear and everything that holds you back from being the confident athlete that you were meant to be.
We do this through one on one coaching, over FaceTime or Skype, or through the online Mental Toughness training community, the Perform Happy community. Feel free to check that out at, performhappy.com. We are currently taking new members.
What I do in my Q&A is answer questions from members of that community. We have this fabulous group of parents, a lot of them have come to us because their gymnasts are struggling with mental blocks, or their other type of athletes are struggling with performance anxiety, or nerves. You know, those big competition nerves. We have all kinds of different athletes, but there’s definitely a lot of gymnasts, in there. If, you’re a gymnast, or have a gymnast who’s struggling with a mental block, or fear, or anxiety, I definitely encourage you to come join us, because there’s an awesome group of parents, working together to give their kids the best chance at success.
I get to work with the kids, individually, in the forums, and guide them along through the trainings. They tell me their goals, at the beginning of the week. I help them adjust them, so they’re really powerful goals. We check-in. I’m just really amazed and pleased with the strength of this community, and how all these parents are kind of, like, pooling together their resources and being like, “It’s okay, mama. Don’t worry. I just went through that. You can do it.”
I’ve got a few questions on the same topic of big competitions. We are getting to state meet time of year, in the gymnastics community. That’s, kind of the first big meet. Then, we get over to regionals, if you’re so lucky, or lucky, or skilled, or whatever. Then, there’s nationals. We’re just starting the post-season.
Here are the questions. It’s all about, kind of the self-doubt. That, self-defeating thought, worry monster, that comes in, when there’s something really important. And, who says it’s important? I mean, I don’t know, you guys, right? That’s, who says it’s important, because … Well, I’ll get into that.
Q: My daughter had a breakdown, last night. She’s only competing beam and floor, at state, this weekend. She thought she would be able to compete everything. Now, her back is hurting. She’s having trouble of floor because of it. Self-doubt is taking over, and I know I said all the wrong things.
Well, you’re not alone, mom. There are a lot of parents saying the wrong things to their kids, at this time of year. Everybody is stressed out. Everybody has shelled out all the money, for all the meets, all the stuff, and you’re at a point where you’re like, “Is this season gonna have been worth it? Or, is it gonna go anywhere?” We’re all just so outcome oriented as a culture, that we’re like, “This matters. You have to have a strong state meet. You’ve got to get to state. You’ve got to do well, there.” And, if you don’t, well, what does that mean? Does it mean it was a waste? Does it mean that you have wasted all your time and energy, all season long, to then, go, and blow it at the big meet?
Focused on the Outcome
Some people would say, yes. That, would mean, that it was a waste. I’m of the school of thought, that there is no such thing as waste. There’s no wasted effort. There is no wasted competition. Every single opportunity to perform under pressure, is a very valuable learning experience, that will take … It’s a building block for the future with in your sport, and then also, beyond. Because, as we adults know, your sport career is so tiny, in comparison to the size of your life, that you’ve got this little opportunity, to build all these amazing life skills that turn you into this incredible adult. And, you might blow it, from time to time. Do we adults ever blow it in a big way? Yes, we do, and we must bounce back from it.
Daughter’s got all the self-doubt, swirling. I’ve got another question that goes right along with it, so I’m gonna read that one first, before I dive into answering it. This mom says,
Q: What do you do to get athletes out of the big competition mindset? My daughter had a mental block on vault, for months, but has been able to pull it off in competition. This past weekend, she missed it at competition, for the first time ever, and zeroed. Now, her qualifying meet is in two weeks, where her all around score matters most, and she’s focused on nothing but the failure and the two week deadline. To make matters worse, invitations for next season are released soon, and she’s been told she will be sent to team prep, if she can’t vault consistently. Trying to convince her, one minute at a time, but no luck.
When there is a threat on the horizon, humans go into fight or flight. That is what keeps us safe. I always like to use a tiger as an example. If, there is a tiger standing in front of me, my brain will kick into gear, and I will start to have that, like, “Oh, my gosh. I gotta get this together. I have to save to my life. There’s a big, big threat.”
Jamie’s saying, “Yes, deadline fear. No time for baby steps.” Okay, and those of you guys who are in my Overcoming Fear course, or who are in the community with us, you know I love baby steps. I’m always talking about the brain. It needs baby steps. Coaches and deadlines, require big steps, really fast. Pull it together. Knock it out. Go for it. Just, do it. But that’s, not what the brain needs.
Take Those Baby Steps
Okay, so we’ve got a couple different brain issues going on, in this situation. We’ve got the mental block, which is the brain, essentially, going into a phobic response, around a certain skill. Where, even though, yes, this skill has been safe to you before, the brain, for some reason, thinks that this skill is not safe. In order to get your brain to believe that the skill is safe, you have to take baby steps. You baby step into it, and the other part of it is the way you think about it. You have to make sure that you’re thinking in a way that’s allowing your brain to come to peace with the skill, instead of, take a baby step, talk about how scary it is. Take a baby step, talk about how scary it is.
Always Move Forward
It has to be linked up, that you’re moving forward slowly, building confidence, and you’re reinforcing it through what you’re saying to yourself along the way. If you’ve got self-doubt, now, coming in, because there’s only two weeks left like, “Oh, my gosh. I have to get this. If, I don’t qualify for state at this meet, I’m not getting in. I’m a failure. Oh, my gosh. I have to do it.” What that’s gonna do, is make that tiger, bigger. Not only are you trying to run away from a tiger, but you’re trying to run away from the biggest tiger you could possibly imagine. Which is, not gonna make you run any faster, because you can only run as fast as you can.
Rushing Causes you to Mess Up
All it’s gonna do is, make you completely cease up, pee your pants, feel like you’re gonna throw up, and be kind of like, frozen and stuck, and then the tiger eats you, because you’ve choked. That’s, that choking under pressure that happens. I just talked to somebody this morning, who bless her heart, got hurt at a meet, last weekend, because she was rushing. Because, she was stressed out. Because, there wasn’t any time. Ugh. She was like, “Only 10 seconds. I gotta hurry. I gotta hurry.” Then, she crashes on a simple skill, because she’s hurrying, hurrying, hurrying, hurrying.
How Would you Have Done it Before?
The point that I’m slowly getting to, thank you for bearing with me, you guys, is that, every single time you go to perform a skill or routine, it needs to be done the same way. You can’t be in this, “Last two weeks. I have to hustle,” or, “There’s only 10 seconds left of warm-up. I’ve gotta go fast.” Or, those types of thoughts, those self-doubt like, “There’s not enough time. I’m not gonna do it the right way. I’m not gonna be ready enough,” all that does is make you do things differently, tense up, make the tiger feel huge, and then you melt down, and all that hard work you’ve put in all season, is kind of out the window.
I don’t think it’s out the window, because it’s still in there, and you’re still getting credit for it, all summer through post season, next season. There’s no such thing as wasted work, but if you go and blow it because you made your tiger huge, and then you got stressed out, and then you fell on easy stuff and hurt yourself, that is not what we’re going for. That is not why you’ve been training, all season.
How Do we Keep it Consistent?
How do we keep it consistent, every single day, every single week, every single routine, every single competition? Somebody I look up to in the sports psychology world, named Michael Gervais, he says, “You have to dissolve the pressure of competition.” Doesn’t that sound good? To just like, drop it in a glass of water, and it dissolves, and then it’s not there anymore. Ahhh. Okay, how do you do that?
Well, unfortunately, you guys, I’m gonna give you a spoiler alert. You can’t do it the week before competition. You have to be doing it all year long. That’s, okay. That’s why this place that we’re at right now, even if everybody has to crash and burn a little bit, is going to help you dissolve the pressure of state meet, next year. Because, I don’t think we’re all quitting, right? You guys are in this, so we get to learn from whatever goes. Even if it’s the worse state meet ever, great. Talk to me. We will sort it out. We’ll figure out what we can learn, and then next year can be amazing, and you don’t have to feel the pressure. You don’t have to have it be this big, huge deal, where you have to doubt yourself, and freak out, and think about the worse case scenario.
Start Way in Advance
The way you dissolve the pressure, is by being consistent. Which means, if the way to get over fear is to take baby steps, you do the baby steps on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, no matter if there’s a meet on Saturday, or not. And, what you have to do is, just start where you are. So, if where you are is a nervous wreck, who’s not making any routines in practice, well then, you’ve got to start with what you can do, and then build from there. You’re only gonna get as far as you get, by competition, and that’s okay. You accept it, learn from it, and you move on.
If you’re doing really well in practice, but you’re like, “The competition is coming. There’s a lot of pressure. I have to do well. I have to do better. Or I have to rush, and I have to do more,” that’s not where you need to be. You need to just be in Monday. Then, you’re in Tuesday. You’re in Wednesday. And, you’re just doing one skill, followed by another skill, followed by another skill, followed by another skill, followed by another event, and another routine. Then, you go home, and you go to bed, and you eat. You just take care of it, one step at a time, just like any other week. Just like, any other day.
How to WIN
You have to be willing to just, be okay. Any time you start to get ahead of yourself, so you start to be in, “Uh, the meet is this weekend. I need to change this,” reel it back in. There’s an acronym, how to WIN. WIN, is W-I-N. How to do, What’s Important Now. That’s all you have to do, today, right now, is what’s important now? If anybody’s on their way to practice, then all you gotta do right now, is sit in the car and get ready to go to practice. That’s it. If you are warming up, all you’re doing is warming up. If you are sitting, all you’re doing is sitting. You are doing a skill, you’re just doing a skill.
If your mind starts to time travel, into the future, into the what-if, into the self-doubt, into what could go wrong, you pull it right back into, here I am, sitting in a chair. Breathing, that’s what’s important, now. Then, when you’re doing your routine, you don’t want to be two skills ahead, because you’re worried about falling, you want to be doing the skill you’re doing, so that you can do it well enough to stay on the event, and not fall. Instead of thinking about falling, you’re just doing one thing at a time. You’re just doing one skill at a time.
This, you should be training, all season long, so that by the time you get to that quote, unquote, big meet, you just do the same thing. Actually, the way that I train my athletes, and we have a course I just added to the Perform Happy community, called Automatic Self Trust, it teaches you exactly how to get to the point where, in competition, you just show up. You show up and you do routines. You show up and you play your best game, and you trust your training.
It’s that freedom, that’s what we’re looking for. I don’t want you guys to have to be like, “I say this in my head. Then, I say this in my head. Then, I think that, and then I do this, and then I do that, and I do this.” I want you to just show up and do your routines, and know you’re going to nail it, because you’ve prepared yourself, and that’s just the way it goes with you. If you’re not there, that’s okay. I have a lot of good resources for you, and you get to learned from your mistakes of overthinking about it, making your tiger humongous, et cetera, et cetera.
Be in the Moment
Here’s kind of like, the quick Reader’s Digest version, on how to calm dow that inner critic and get yourself as dissolved as possible, as far as the pressure. Number one, focus on the present. Be here. Be in the moment. As soon as your mind starts to wander, pull it right back. If you start to worry, come back to the moment. Come back to your breathing. Come back to what’s in front of you, right now, in this second. Then, it will wander more, and then you pull it back. And, it will wander, again, and you pull it back. It’s not the wandering that you want to be worried about, because that’s natural, human. It’s that, how quickly can you snap it back to what you want to be doing next?
Focus on the Controllables
You want to focus on, only what you need to do, not what could happen. You want to kind of stay out of your mind, and just get in your body. What is your body doing, next? Do you need to squeeze? What do you need to physically do with your body? Then, you always want to, also, focus on the controllables. If, you can’t control who you’re competing against, who’s judging you, what’s on the line, who’s gonna win, all those outcomes, you can’t control any of them, so if you can keep your worry monster off of those topics, that would be great. That’d be very helpful, and you just pull yourself into, what is my body doing right now, and what does it need to be doing?
Have Fun Doing What you Love
Have fun. This one’s huge. I even have people get a designated, like, fun buddy. If you know that you are a major stress case about something, then be like, “Hey, Kaitlin. Will you be my buddy, today? Can we just chat about, whatever? If I look stressed, can you just, like, keep it lite for me, today?” That can be really helpful, because sometimes, that helps you stay in the moment, better than the what-if. They can pull you back in.
Forget about your goals. One of the members in the community, told me that what worked for her daughter, and I loved this, was that, she wrote down all her goals at home, she crumpled them up, and she threw them away. You guys are like, “What? Why would you do that? Aren’t goals important?” Yes, but not at the meet. Toss them. You don’t need them, anymore. You’ve already set your intention. You’ve already done all the work. Now, forget about the goals, because that puts you out in the future, where you can’t control it. Toss them. Leave them at home. Leave them in the garbage can, and just go do the best you can.
Finally, get some positive distractions. If music makes you feel good, listen to music. Bring a book with you, for downtime. Do something, so that you’re not stressed out, during that prep period.
Q: How to deal with perceived pressure from coaches.
Yeah, okay. Dealing with perceived pressure from coaches. I love that you said, perceived, because that’s it. There isn’t, actually, any pressure. And, I know, you guys are like, “No, actually, there really is. Like, my kid, might get kicked off the team.” And, I work with kids who might get kicked off the team, if they don’t get it together. If you focus on that, is that going to help you? No. If your coach is like, “If you don’t get it together, you’re not moving up,” is that helpful? No, not helpful. Sorry, coaches. I mean, maybe, for 10% of the kids out there, that will help get them in gear, but not the type of kid I’m talking to. That’s helpful for like, the lazy kid, who doesn’t work hard, who needs a kick in the butt.
The Pressure Isn’t Really There
The kids I work with and who I’m talking to, are high achievers, who care too much, who are perfectionists, who are people pleasers, who just want to not get in trouble and do a good job. They do not need any additional pressure, because they are putting so much on themselves, all the time. You have to filter it out.
You have to take those distractions, because that’s exactly what it is. That, what the coach is giving you, is just a big, huge distraction. Or, what your parents are giving you, what your teammates are giving you, what you’re giving yourself, that says, “This is so much pressure. It’s so important.” And, you go, la la la la la. What’s important now? And, you just keep thinking back to, what do I need to do, in this moment, to set myself up for success?
That’s it. I know, it’s easier said, than done, which is why I keep reinforcing, start now, so that by next season, you’re gonna be a pro at this. Pulling your thoughts, back to the present. Pulling your thoughts, back to the present. I mean, this is really, a pretty solid life strategy, too. You can stress out about stuff. You can put pressure on yourself about stuff. Or, you can just put in the work, trust your training, and be present, and trust that everything’s gonna work out the way it’s supposed to. And, if you totally bomb, we all still love you, and you just get yourself picked back up, learn from it, and move forward.
Alright, you guys. You can always send me questions at, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to join in the fun and get to work building confidence, please come join us at, performhappy.com. Or, you can book a one on one session with me, or any of the other fabulous coaches, at completeperformancecoaching.com. We’ll see you again, next week. Bye.