If you’re a gymnast or if you are participating in a sport that’s competing right now, we’re rounding the corner on the pre-season meets and getting ready for the state, regional, and national meets! First of all, thank goodness we get to compete this year. It feels like it’s been forever without competition.
A lot of people will come to me and say: “My kid gets so nervous at meets. How can I help her calm down?”
And the truth is, if you try to do something in that moment, when she’s getting ready to salute for beam and she’s convulsing, it’s not going to work.
Yes. There are techniques that can be done in that moment but to really show up confident and calm and ready, there’s a lot of pre-work that you have to do.
I have this little timeline that I go off of in my LIVE group trainings in the PerformHappy Community. And it starts way back, last season or the season before that, where you look at your past successes.
Here are the 10 steps to a confident competition:
Step 1: Look Back At Your Past Successes
So the first thing that I want you to do is look back to the past and pay attention to what has worked for you.
It’s possible you had a really amazing competition that felt like a fluke. You might wonder why you did so well because maybe you were running late or you weren’t even paying attention. Yet you went out there and you did amazing. You might think it was a fluke but it’s NEVER random. There are always clues.
So you find those clues so you know what works for you. You find those patterns where ‘whenever this happens, I do well.’ Maybe it’s not being so heavily focused or having some fun or maybe it’s not having your mom there.
And I’m not talking about superstition here. I’m not talking about the lucky pants and the rabbit’s foot. I’m talking about things that you did that allowed you to be in that calm, confident mindset. It could have been just positive distractions. You might’ve done some visualizing. You might’ve gotten some really strong encouragement from a coach. You might have had a really great week right before, but whatever it was, make some notes and then commit to doing that because you know it works.
Step 2: Look Back At Your Past Failures
Now you’re going to look at your past failures.
The truth is, you can use your past mistakes for good or evil.
If you’re used to dwelling on a negative moment and it makes you feel bad to think about, then that’s not going to boost your confidence.
But if you can learn from those past mistakes, then you can identify your patterns. You might be able to figure out what happened right before bars that did not set you up for success. What were the triggers that made you really nervous? And what’s the plan that you can put into place so that the trigger is no longer going to get you.
You might even come up with the potential obstacles you might face. Think about what’s going to pop up and ruin your day. And then instead of one plan, you might have two plans or three plans.
For example, let’s say you see your old coach. You come up with a few plans – “I can do this, this or this.” Now that you have a plan you don’t have to stress about it.
You can also learn from those past mistakes and remind yourself that one bad day did not ruin your previous decade of training. You survived your mistake and even if you didn’t do well, you were okay in the end. Most of all, you learned something from the experience.
Step 3: Put In The Reps In Practice
So you had your past successes and your past failures. Now, it’s time to prepare yourself in practice so that you can really hit the ground running for competition.
First, you do repetitions in practice so that you are prepared physically.
Your effort is strong and you’re showing up and you’re putting in the reps.
You need to get mastery of your skills to get to the point where you can trust them and where you don’t have to overthink, over-correct, or overanalyze. You can just go hit a routine because you’ve done a hundred of them.
Step 4: Mentally Rehearse For Competition
In practice, it’s important that you’re also mentally rehearsing. One of the biggest things I teach in my PerformHappy community is imagery. I teach it in a specific way that allows you to feel like it’s really happening.
By practicing imagery, you’re able to fast forward to the competition and you see yourself as trusting, feeling confident, being aware and present and in your flow.
You are hitting all your skills. You’re landing and saluting and everybody parties. It’s so awesome.
You’re rehearsing that success over and over and over as you rehearse your skills and you get to a point where you’re feeling really ready, both mentally and physically.
Step 5: Legalize Failure
If you’ve done all of that and you’re getting ready for competition, the first thing you should do is legalize failure.
We already talked about the value of failure, right? It teaches you what doesn’t work. So you have to go in and be okay to fail.
You might wonder how that’s helpful and how that is going to build confidence. What that does is it just allows the monkey of perfectionism to get off your back. You remove the tension and the pressure of feeling like you have to be perfect. You can shake it off a bit and be like: “I am ready mentally and physically. I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve learned from my successes. I am prepared. I know what might set me off. I have a backup plan. If I make a mistake today, I’m going to learn from it and that’s going to be okay.”
Step 6: Check Your Expectations At The Door
Next, you check your expectations at the door.
So you don’t go in thinking you have to get this score to qualify for state otherwise it’s going to be so bad. Or if I don’t hit this skill in warm up, they’re not going to let me compete and it will be terrible,.
In fact, you should write down all the expectations you’re feeling:
- My mom wants me to do this.
- My coach expects me to do this.
- I expect myself to do this.
You write down all your expectations and you crumble them up and you check it.
And then it’s just you in the moment. And you walk in curious. You might think “I wonder how it will go today.” And that’s it. There’s no “I must do this. I need to do this. I have to do this.”
You’re just curiously optimistic about you’re going to see what happens. And then you remember that no matter what happens you’re going to be okay. And you’re going to be proud because you’ve been working hard for this.
Step 7: Get Excited
Then the final thing before competition starts is to get excited. If you’re nervous and you say you’re nervous, the nerves are going to rush in.
Instead you take that high energy and you say things like: “I’m excited. I feel my go power. Okay. I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
When you feel those butterflies you think “I can’t wait. This is going to give me so much power.”
Even if you feel nervous, if you just switch the language in your head to one of excitement it will change everything for you.
Then it’s the meet and it’s normal to be nervous.
Sean Johnson, one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, was notoriously nervous and she was also notoriously solid in competition. So if you are nervous, it’s totally fine.
Try to conjure up that excitement factor. Even talk to your friends and say something like: “Ok friends. We don’t get nervous anymore. We only get excited.” See if you can play that game.
Step #8: Trust Your Training
Finally, it’s time to trust your training. It’s as if you have studied for the exam, you went to the lecture, you made this study guide, you memorized it all. You talked about it with your friends. You imagine it in your mind. You remembered you did your flashcards. And now it’s time to just get out your pencil and put pen to paper and just see what comes out.
And so when you show up, trust it. Remember that you’ve put in everything you possibly can up to this moment.
Say things like: “I’m not going to overthink it. And I’m just going to stay here in the moment, take a one skill at a time and see what happens.”
The key is to focus on what you can control. As setbacks happen or hiccups happen or things don’t go quite the way you want, you focus on what can you control here. Your attitude, your actions. Maybe you will focus your attention on something that makes you feel calm. Those controllables are where you have your power.
You’re not focusing on outcomes. You’re not focusing on other people. You are just staying in the moment and trusting your training. That’s the thing I teach in PerformHappy. First, we get aware, you know, looking back at the past successes and failures, then we build confidence through repetition and planning and the right attitude. And then we trust it. And that’s when the best stuff happens.
Step #9: Celebrate!
Then after your meet is over, you celebrate! Even if you fell 47 times and it was the worst meet of your life, you go out and you celebrate.
You celebrate because you showed up and you are going to have such a bag of facts and data and information about what makes you tick and you will only get better from there. And if you did amazing then you celebrate your effort and your progress and your attitude, just the same, because that’s what really matters the most.
Step #10: Rinse and Repeat
Those are the steps to a confident competition. Once your competition is over, it’s sort of full circle. You review, you reflect, you learn, you apply, and then you repeat.
So you go, okay, was it a great performance? Let’s figure out what set me up for success. What are the clues? Was it a terrible performance? Okay. Let’s figure out what didn’t set me up for success. What are the clues? And then you repeat.
Basically that was a crash course in the timeline of how to prep for competition. I hope you gained some good takeaways from these steps and can apply them to your next competition. Good luck! And remember to download a copy of my Sport Confidence Roadmap below if you haven’t already!