Achieving a Trusting Mindset for Competition

Today’s Topic: Achieving a Trusting Mindset for Competition

Hi everyone, I’m coach Taryn, her to discuss how to achieve a trusting mindset for competition.  This is one of my favorite things to talk to athletes about.  Like I’ve said before, my area of expertise is working with figure skaters, so I’ll probably use some examples for the figure skaters out there, but again, everything I talk about is applicable to all sports.  For athletes competing in gymnastics, dance, swimming, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, you name it, this particular idea is going to apply to you.  Hopefully, you’ll take something away from listening to this today.

Two Different Mindsets

What I want to break down it is two different mindsets that I think athletes can have when they are engaging in their sport.  The first one I want to talk about is a trusting mindset.  The second one is a training mindset.

Training Mindset

I’ll back up a couple of steps there.  Let’s talk about the training mindset first.  I’ve spoken to a lot of athletes about the mindset that they have when they’re practicing- when they’re getting in the gym, getting on the ice each day, having sessions with their coach.  When you’re in those, in those situations, you want to have a training mindset. That means that you’re engaging in some deliberate focus, you’re enhancing and growing your skills.

Conscious Thought

You’re going to be thinking through what’s happening.  Your coach is probably going to give you some corrections or some things to think about. When you are going out to practice that double axle, you’re going to be thinking,
Okay, I need to put my arm in the right place.  I need to squeeze tighter and need to cross my legs.  I need to have a little bit more speed going into this element.”

You’re thinking about making things better.  There’s a lot more conscious thought that’s happening in trying to advance your skill and advance your technique.


When you’re in a training mindset, you’re doing a lot more repetition to be able to build that muscle memory.  This also helps build your confidence and the skill.  Really, that’s the goal of a training mindset, to be able to get better, master new skills, and build confidence in those skills.  You’re going to be working on your technique.  You’ll be fine tuning things, making things better.  You’re going to be focused on doing it over and over and over again so that you build that muscle memory and that confidence.


There’s also going to be an evaluative component of it where you might skate back over to your coach after you do that double axel, and you talk about it.  You might watch it on a videotape.  You might analyze what went well and what didn’t go well so the next time you go over and do it, you can make those little adjustments to make that element better.

Now, when you go to a competition, the training mindset may not be the most helpful. I don’t know if any athlete wants to go out on the ice and be thinking about a whole bunch of different corrections.  You’re obviously in a competition.  You don’t have time to repeat something over and over again.  Most of the time you only get a couple of tries, maybe one or two on the warmup and then maybe one or twice if you have it repeated in your program.  You don’t have a lot of time for that overthinking or for that analyzing.

Trusting Mindset

You also don’t have time to skate back over to your coach to get those corrections, that feedback, or to watch it on a video.  When you’re in a competition setting, you want to tap into what we call a trusting mindset.  The trusting mindset is believing in yourself and trusting all of the training and the repetition that you’ve done and that you’ve practiced, being able to go out and let it happen.

Let It Happen

In the training mindset, you might be trying a little bit harder to change and make things different.  In the trusting mindset, yes you want to be putting in the effort, but I like to call it “trying easy”.  You’re letting it happen.  You’re letting your body do what it knows how to do and what it’s trained over and over and over again.

Part of the trusting mindset is being able to accept that you’ve put in the work.  You’ve put in the hours and hours of training and your body and your mind know how to do, let’s say that double axle.

Throw Away Your Doubts

The trusting mindset is a lot about throwing away all of the doubts and the “what ifs” and the overthinking and letting yourself focus on doing the element, doing the skill, and allowing it to happen.  It’s a getting lost in the in the moment kind of a feeling.

Shifting From a Training to Trusting Mindset

I spoke to a lot of athletes about how to achieve that because I think it can be challenging to shift that mindset.  There are a couple of different strategies to help with that.  One is having some sort of a representation of that shift.  You have to flip the switch.  You flip that trusting mindset on when you’re about to head out onto the ice.  This could be for your competition, it could be for a test, it could be for a show or a performance, it might even be in practice if you’re doing a simulation or a run through of your program.  In the days leading up to a competition, you might want to practice flipping that switch, that trusting mindset, to allow yourself to get used to what that feels like.

Visual Shift

I think for every athlete it’s helpful to have representation, something visual, of the shift.  An example could be the moment you step out of the locker room.  That line when you cross over the doorway from the locker room out into the ice arena, that might represent, “Okay, I’m stepping from the training mindset into the trusting mindset.”

Verbal Shift

Another strategy might be something you say in your mind to help you acknowledge that you’re shifting.  Get creative with it!  For some people, it might be pretending there’s a light switch, and you’re going to flick that light switch on in your mind.  That means that you are switching into that training mindset. For some people, it might be the act of stepping out onto the ice surface.

Wardrobe Shift

For some athletes, representation of the shift might be putting on a costume.  When you put your skates on, you might think, “When I do this, that means I’m flipping the switch from the training to the trusting mindset.”

Have A Mantra

Having that visual representation allows you to know you’ve made the switch.  I think it can also be helpful to have something that you say to yourself.  I like to use mantras, a short phrase that you say to yourself.  Nike has the slogan, “Just do it.”

Coming up with a mantra might be as simple as “trust yourself” and when you say that to yourself, that’s you really saying, “All right, I’m in the trusting mindset.  I’m leaving that overthinking, make everything better, perfecting … I’m leaving that behind and I’m trusting that my body and my mind know what to do to execute these elements successfully.”

I know for me as an athlete, I was a competitive figure skater and I had a couple of different things that I would say to myself at different points in time.  There was this moment for me where I would say, “No regrets”.  Saying those words, no regrets, and let it happen.  Those were some mantras that I found helpful.  When I said them, that allowed me to believe in myself and to trust all of the training and all of the hard work that I put in.  When I repeated that to myself, it was a reinforcement or a reminder of being in that trusting mindset.

Have a Plan

If you’re really getting stuck in that overthinking and having complex thoughts going on, it’s really hard to enjoy that performance and to let things happen in the moment.  If you can find ways to build up that trust in yourself, you’re going to be able to tap into that more quickly when you get to a competition.

Some of the ways that I’ll talk to athletes about increasing that trust in themselves is having a plan.  So like I said, finding those strategies, the mantras, the visual representation so that when you step out of the locker room or you flip the switch, that represents trusting yourself.

Having a plan and sticking to it, using it every time, is key to being really confident in yourself. Being confident in all of the things that you have practiced, and confidence is a choice.  You use strategies and you make choices to be confident in yourself.  There are things that you can come up with as part of that plan to say to yourself, to focus on, to help build up that confidence.  The more you practice tapping into that trusting mindset, the more confident you’re going to be able to feel about trusting yourself.

Having Fun

One other thing that is really important for finding that trusting mindset is having fun.  It’s really hard to get into that trusting mindset if you’re not having fun or focusing on what you enjoy and what you love about what you’re doing.

When you step out onto that ice, you’re wanting to tap into that trusting mindset.  You want to enjoy yourself!  Embrace the audience and the people that you’re performing for, and trust that this is your opportunity to shine.  That’s really exciting.

Let Go of Mistakes

One final thing to remember for achieving that trusting mindset is being able to let go of mistakes.  I know that can be really challenging.  In practice, it’s okay to focus on and analyze those mistakes because that’s how you improve.  In a competition setting, when you’re trying to trust your performance and trust yourself and all of the training that you’ve put in, you want to be able to let go of those mistakes.  Having that short term memory loss is really important.  If you do make a mistake, or you fall on a jump, you’ll be able to stand up and shake it off or let it go.  Then you can move on to the next element with that trust that your body knows how to recover from a mistake because it does it over and over and over again.

Think about how many times you fall and you get up in practice.  You repeat it and you do it right.  Your body knows how to rebound from those mistakes.

I want to encourage you to think about some of these strategies.  Think about how you can build a trusting mindset for yourself.  I’d be happy to talk to you more about how you can do that and how you can make it more individual for you and your sport.

Please feel free to click here and schedule a consultation with me, Coach Taryn.  I’d be happy to chat with you or with your athlete a little bit more to best create strategies in your sport so that you can get out there and trust your performance.

I’ll talk to you soon.  Have a great day.

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