The Importance of Mental Preparation

This month’s article was inspired by the incredible achievements of 18yr old Emma Raducanu.  On the 22nd ofJune, Wimbledon opened their doors to welcome some of the world’s elite Tennis professionals and whilst Emma made the trip, she was only ranked 338th in the world at this point.

Only month’s before entering Wimbledon, Emma had been revising and sitting her A-Levels at school, and due to the ongoing pandemic had, had little time or no time to practice her game over the last 12 months.  We all know how stressful revision and exams can be, so just imagine the tremendous pressure, coupled with the excitement of making the trip to Wimbledon must have been for such a young girl.

Within just one week of joining one of the world’s most famous Tennis championships, Emma had successfully won her first 3 games at this debut tournament, which instantly thrust into the spotlight, where she found herself on the front and back pages of every national UK newspaper!  Not only that, but Emma was also the only British entry left in the singles category by the end of week 2, which must only have added to the pressure and hype surrounding her.

Unfortunately, Emma had to pull out of her final game on the 5th of July taking medical advice from her medical team.  In an interview Emma said “I found it difficult to regulate my breathing….I don’t know what caused it.  I think it was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes in the last week, and accumulation of excitement and buzz.”

Many of our members have been away from competitions for well over 12 months now and some of our junior members will now be old enough to compete during 2021/22, so how can we mentally prepare to achieve our very best performance, get in the zone, and enjoy the occasion?

  1. Focus on Your Technique

Don’t be consumed about winning or losing, it can distract from the actions you need to perform physically. Learn to ignore the factors that you don’t have control over, such as environment. Focus on the details you need to execute during competition and listen to your coaches. Instead of visualizing the outcome, identify the individual steps you need to take to get there.

  1. Understand How Stress Can Benefit You

Heading into competition, you may feel stressed. Recognise that stress is something that can work for you or against you. A small amount of tension can help benefit your performance, providing that boost of energy and rush of adrenaline. What’s important is not allowing the stress of the occasion to consume you.  Learn to accept the presence of stress and use it to your advantage.

  1. Visualise Your Performance

Many top athletes practice visualisation before a competition. They picture potential scenarios that they could possibly face and determine how they will react. This assists you to respond quickly when presented with the same scenario on the spot.

  1. Preparing for The Environment

Some athletes like to get motivated up by listening to loud, fast-paced music, whilst others feed off encouragement from their teammates and supporters. Some choose to find a quiet space and listen to calming music, meditation and focusing on breathing exercises. Work out which method best suits you and make sure to replicate that environment for yourself prior to the competition.

  1. Practice Positive Self-Talk

Your internal dialogue before competition should be mindful and purposeful. Set yourself up for success by talking through the event.  As you walk out for your first swim race or water polo match, will you be soaking up the atmosphere or shutting off the noise? What positive words of encouragement are you saying to yourself in the moment?

  1. Self-Awareness

Know yourself as best you can. Learn how you naturally respond to certain stress triggers and create a plan on how to respond. If may help to keep a journal with you to log your thoughts and feelings so you can learn from them over time.

Emma Raducanu has just experienced her biggest test to date, “I think it’s a great learning experience for me going forward, and hopefully next time now I’ll be better prepared”.

So, in conclusion, having the awareness of how our mind and bodies react ahead of time, both physically and mentally can help us prepare for those big occasions. Take the time now to make all the difference, so when it comes time to compete your mind and body are fully aligned to give a medal winning performance.