The moment you wake up you’re shaking, dizzy and perhaps short of breath. It’s this one day that you have been working towards for the entire year. Entering the high ceilinged stadium with bright lights all above. The crowd is roaring, those old plastic bleachers are banging from people slamming them, and you feel like the ground is slightly quaking. You close your eyes and tell yourself, “this is my day… this is my chance,” but you can’t seem to get those nerves out of the way.
There are many ways to mentally prepare yourself for an important competition. Without a mental game you are already behind your opponents. In order to dial yourself into the game, preparing weeks before is imperative and decisive.
Imagining yourself succeeding is amazing to picture and is the greatest way to drive the idea of yourself winning into your head. You can make it feel as if you’re in that moment. Burnaby Judo Clubs’ Nikola Petrovic received a bronze medal from the 2019 Canadian Judo Nationals in the U16 +73 kg category. He confidently states, “It’s just visualization. That’s simply what it’s all about. Every day you need to be imagining yourself achieving that goal. Throwing your opponents over and over and over again.” Petrovic makes a good point, and it can be that simple by mainly focusing on this and imagining that you can see yourself doing it, you will be that much closer to achieving your goal.
Visualization is not just about seeing the future. It is also about remembering the past. Sports psychologist Martin Turner suggests that the best way to thrive under pressure is to remember positive past experiences. He states that visualization is perhaps the best way to get ready for an upcoming event, whether it’s in sports or even business. Turner recommends to think about those positive moments and make them as realistic as possible by remembering every single feeling in that frame of time.
I have been doing judo for 7 years now. Many years ago, at my first tournament of the season, after I had been working hard that summer on my technique, I made my way through three long and grueling matches to the gold medal round. That fourth and final match was the longest and toughest, but I came out on top with a last-second throw to win the fight.
I stepped off the mats and my coach told me, “Remember this moment: what it feels like, what it sounds like, smells and even tastes like.” I chuckled in agreement, but he quickly said, “No. I’m serious. Remember this moment.”
The fight meant so much to me because it gave me faith and confidence, and my coach’s advice effective. This technique still helps me to this day when I’m at a tournament. Remembering back to that moment that was burned into my memory gives me motivation. It was such a good feeling because it was a time when I realized that hard work does pay off and that if I did this once, I can do it again.
Canadian weightlifter, 16-year-old Eric Fong, says, “I try to focus and run through what each event would look and feel like before it actually happens.” From an unlikely perspective, Fong mentions that it helps him to go through “every possible scenario that could go wrong.” He says, “I find that this helps me focus on what I need to do and if these situations actually happen, I know how I can deal with them.” When he was younger and played hockey, his coaches would make them visualize every aspect of play and what you need to do in possible scenarios, good or bad, five minutes before the game. This carried on into weightlifting and Crossfit when he got older.
Practicing self-talk can enhance your focus before a competition. Putting yourself in a personal space physically and mentally will really help to relax your mind and body. You should focus on closing your eyes, properly breathing, and listening to music. Also, by giving yourself words of motivation just as your coach would, can boost your eagerness to succeed even more. Then, you can make this the perfect time to reflect on a positive past experience.
At the end of the day, anyone who has a competition or game needs a way to get ready a month, a couple of weeks, a few days and the day before the event. In some way, shape, or form everyone has a routine. Team Judo British Columbia member, Aytun Gill, states, “I think in order to be competitive in sports you have to have a routine. Especially before games and tournaments because it just lets you have that piece of mind that you tried your best to prepare your mind and body for what you are about to go through.” He thoroughly describes his routine two weeks prior to the tournament, which consists of eating healthy and meditation. “I need to relax my mind so I don’t think about any outside distractions. Keeping an eye on my weight is imperative as well. Also, I don’t want to feel gross when I end up fighting because then I won’t feel as confident and won’t perform at my best.”
Many famous high-level athletes have routines. They find a way to help them focus and dial themselves into preparation for an upcoming competition. Long distance runner Mo Farah, from Great Britain, is a four-time gold medalist in the 5000m and 10000m races in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. He prefers to calm himself days before the competition approaches, by drinking coffee, listening to music, and getting lots of sleep. When tournament day comes he will get himself psyched up, intense and concentrated on being ready to push as hard as he can during the race in order to perform at his best.
When it comes to your overall preparation, finding something that works for you will be what makes you feel your passion and desire. The importance of focus and determination can be shown by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who preaches his motivation by stating that no matter the condition, there are no excuses. “When it’s time to go to the gym, we gotta get to the gym. And there ain’t no stopping us. I’m gonna be the baddest motherf***** walkin.”