It’s all the same – A focused tournament mind

By Mark Schwab

Mindset for major competitions

Dominant: Teams and individuals that win state and national tournaments consistently.

Fade: Teams or individuals that want the season over. They want to be the best, but settle on mediocrity. They have no plan in place to peak. Their practice room and lifestyle habits are not conducive to consistent winning. Improper weight management could be a problem, but the main factor is their mental state. Fear carries more authority than belief.

Peak: Teams and individuals that understand a superior person is able to focus. Focus allows mastery of your environment.

Lack of belief is detrimental. Wasting time looking ahead and overanalyzing the past is hurtful to consistent performance. There are times when we question our readiness to compete by magnifying our opponents’ abilities and minimizing our own. Athletes often create imagined obstacles that hinder their potential.

Tournaments, ideally, are what you look toward all season. Use major competitions as a reward. Let other competitors work mental numbers on themselves. Let the competition become filled with anxiety and doubt. Let them compete with a mental parking brake on. Let the competition deal with the weight of doubt. Let the competition question and wear themselves out with non-stop mental games.

Much like physical training, there are mental training skills. Improving your mental skills should be part of your overall program. Many athletes experience mental struggles but do little to change their state of mind. Many hope on game day everything will work itself out.

Our thoughts can be cunning, but they provide evidence that shows up in our performance.

Our thinking, a never ending internal conversation, will always be with us; it is how our minds work. There is always something on our mind. What occupies your mind is important. You can rehearse victory or you can court defeat. Overcoming defeat is a battle you can win, but you have to challenge yourself and you must give up comfort.

The daily battle is always between what you should do and what you actually do. Win these battles. The more persistent the fight, the more likely the victory. A plan of action makes a difference.

As major tournaments approach, many athletes tighten up, hold back, or shut down. They refrain from what produced past victories. They stay safe, overanalyze, and wait; waiting is a trap.

You are still in control during major competition.  Nothing changes. You are still competing under the same rules and the same principles. Nothing has changed except your thinking. And since you control your thinking, you hold the key. What will you allow to speak loudest? You have been good before, and you can be good again.

The athlete who deals with pressure will triumph. A venue does not change you. Nothing changes except what you allow. It is responsibility on your part. Responsibility is a choice and an opportunity to grow, not a burden.

It is natural to be nervous; you can perform with nerves. Be in the moment. Do not fear something you have done consistently well. Relax, take a deep breath, and focus.

It is either you or your opponent. Your responsibility is to tilt the odds in your favor through daily preparation. Since your competition is training like you are, you have to invest more. Maybe it is working harder and longer, but maybe it is working smarter and understanding that you will function at an optimal level when the body and mind are in unison.

We create fear and doubt, but we also possess courage and belief. Both exist in our minds. They do not live in harmony so you have to choose. It takes work, but never confuse difficult with impossible. Eliminating doubt is a battle you can win. You will get what you think about consistently.

Hold nothing back, and compete to win. Performance is not random; it is related to your thoughts and expectations. Somebody who is not supposed to win will excel.  Someone who is supposed to excel will falter. The determining factor is focus and consistency.

How to grow confidence and have a focused tournament mind

  • Awareness of your thoughts. Identify situations where negative self-talk occurs. Interrupt the negative and replace with positive. (Keep this simple). If you learn to manage your self-talk, you can manage your performance.
  • Make a decision that you are going to be committed to building your confidence.
  • Focus is crucial.
  • Body language indicates attitude and attitude dictates behavior. Maintain strong and positive body language.
  • Only concern yourself with the controllable.
  • Build success into your training.
  • Set practice room goals that focus on specific behaviors.
  • Manage your breathing. By slowing your breathing you conserve energy, in control of your movements and function at a higher level. Take a deep breath; breathe in confidence and strength; breathe out doubt and fatigue.
  • Play your strengths. Train your weaknesses.
  • Basics win.
  • Analyze during practice and training. Simplicity during competition.
  • Consistent pre-competition behaviors provide consistent performance results.
  • A win is never certain and a loss is never final. Stay focused!

About Mark Schwab
Mark Schwab spent nine years as assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, helping the program to seven top-three finishes and two NCAA championships. He is currently an assistant coach at the University of Northern Iowa. 

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