Anxiety before and during competition is something completely normal. Ignoring it will put you in a negative state of mind and prevent you from showing your true potential on competition day. The greatest and most experienced athletes in the world also go through these emotions, so it is expected for everybody else to feel the same way. However what the top performers have learned to do very well is to control their anxiety when it is time to perform. You may be spending insufficient time training your mind. Applying the strategies I am going to discuss here will help you view competition from a different perspective. There are some strategies you can apply to your preparation that will help you deal with the competition ‘’jitters’’. Strategies such as meditation, visualization, choosing your environment, and simulation training.
‘’Fear is the genesis of most of the good things that have occurred in my life. Fear is the beginning of every success I’ve lived.’’
– George St. Pierre
It is no accident that meditation is a practice which has been around for centuries. It actually works. Learning to practice meditation takes time and the results are rewarding. Meditation trains your mind to stay focused on the present. Usually, people try to control things that are outside of their control. Doing so they fall into a cycle of overthinking. In reality, you can only control your actions and the thoughts that manifest in your mind. During meditation, you should remain still and focus on your breathing. It will prevent your mind from deviating which is a problem for most people. With the help of meditation, you can prime your mind to effectively control the thoughts you give meaning to. Your mind will also become more resilient to unwanted thoughts. Centering yourself and not overthinking the potential outcomes is key to your success on competition day. To accomplish centering one should always go back to their breathing.
This ties in together with meditation. Once you master the ability to sit still and control your thoughts it is time to visualize yourself in action during competition. Focusing on details is a great way to enhance the benefits from visualization. For example, visualize yourself weighing in, stepping on the mats, shaking hands with your opponent, attempting your favorite submissions, defeating your opponent, and enjoying yourself through all of it. See yourself on the podium waving. Do this consistently before any grappling competition so when the day comes you will feel like you have already been there.
Choosing your environment
Leading up to a competition you may become more sensitive to your environment and the people around you. Therefore you should try to surround yourself with people that are positive thinkers and do not put doubts in your mind. A particular word or an environment may put you in a negative state of mind. Negative thoughts lead to doubts and overthinking. Overthinking and doubts turn into anxiety and nervousness. Some athletes may prefer to isolate themselves to a bigger degree. Isolation is not a bad thing when it has a purpose and is short term. What works and does not is something you will have to experiment with on your own.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”- Abraham Lincoln
Training like an animal to prepare for an event is one thing, but simulating scenarios or pre-competition events has tremendous benefits. ‘’Be uncomfortable in training so you are comfortable in the fight’’. For example, one thing you can do is put yourself in bad positions during live sparring, so you can become better at dealing with them. If you really want to get out of your comfort zone, go to a different academy and spar with other people. Most likely you would not know anything about the people from that particular academy. Not to mention the fact that you will be in a place by yourself with strangers that will watch and examine you like a ‘’lab rat’’. If you want to get really creative pick a day that will simulate exactly what you would be going through on the day of your event. It would look something like this. Get to class really early while sitting around waiting for others to get there. Then weigh in, followed by live sparring during which you would have to obey all of the competition rules. Cover all of your bases in training so when you get to ‘’the day’’ there are no surprises.
Mind and body are not two separate entities. You have to spend time training both equally. Apply these strategies consistently to your preparation routine. They will build mental toughness and make you a better competitor. Some people are great performers in the gym during training, but when the lights come on they are not able to shine. These athletes usually lack mental preparation. Others are able to flip the switch and kill the competition. Whether you choose to implement these strategies is up to you. They will make you a better competitor.