Dr Josephine Perry gives tips on how to prevent getting psyched out by fellow competitors
Getting to the start of an event and seeing everyone else looking cool, calm and collected when you are feeling anything but can be a horrible feeling. But, feeling intimidated plays into their hands and makes things so much harder for you.
If you can find a way to stop feeling psyched out by your competitors you can improve your chances of performing well. So how do you go about it?
Focus only on what you can control: You can’t control what anyone else does so just focus on yourself. This is hard when you may already be feeling nervous, and, in track races, you have to line up alongside each other, but it is worth remembering that they are probably feeling exactly the same way as you – even if they don’t show it.
Be prepared: If it helps, check out your competitors in advance and see what you are up against. Find out what sort of times or distances they have been achieving and watch YouTube videos to see the tactics they use. It doesn’t work for everyone. For some athletes this can just cause anxiety and stress. If you are one of them, then make all your preparation focus in the build up to your event on yourself, and your own tactics, not on what anyone else will be aiming for.
Find your ‘super strength’: The strength will be unique to you, something you recognise as being an area you know you can always rely upon. It may be that you have a really strong start, a great sprint finish or that you very rarely foul a jump. It may be you have high resilience or mental toughness. Knowing you have one element in your performance that makes you stand out can be a great confidence booster.
Enter your own mental zone: Lots of athletes will have a pre-performance routine that helps them do this. It can be something simple, like doing the same warm up you always do, or finding a quiet place and running through a mental skill like visualisation. Doing this routine every time will make you feel comfortable, in control and less intimidated by everyone else around you.
» Dr Josephine Perry is a sport psychologist at performanceinmind.co.uk