Posted 05/13/2020 in Category 1 by John Couture

Pre-Performance Strategies

Pre-Performance Strategies

PRE-GAME STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS  (Focus, Mental Goals, Motivation)


John Couture 


For athletes and coaches to get in or stay “in the ZONE” for a great performance, the answer is simpler than expected: one has to keep your mind in the moment - be mindful of what’s happening NOW.

The thing that causes athletes to lose the zone or not enter the zone is usually time-traveling to the past or the future, wasting their precious mental energy on thinking about the mistakes they made in the game, the score of the game, or how important this performance is to their ultimate goals. It is important to analyze and learn from the past, and to have ambitious goals, but you should NOT be doing this RIGHT BEFORE OR DURING A PERFORMANCE!

All that mental noise is only going to distract you or put unnecessary pressure on you.  This will lead you to lose your concentration and not perform to your potential. In those crucial moments right before a game, and even practice, the best thing you can do is LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR SENSES.

What does that mean?

Controlling your senses before a performance means that before competition starts you look and listen to ONLY the things that will keep you loose, confident, and with proper intensity.

If talking to friends before the event helps keep you centered then continue doing this, but if it distracts you and gives you a shaky start then DON’T DO IT! If looking into the stands or at your opponents makes you uptight and nervous, then don’t do that either. Some visual targets or focal points will distract you from the REAL distractions!      

Instead, find somewhere else to deliberately focus your senses, such as:

  • reading a book, game plan, or scouting report

  • looking at your muscles as you stretch

  • watching a motivational video on your phone

  • picking out one spot ( i.e. flag) and staring at it while breathing regularly

  • focusing on a ball, your shoes, or some favorite thing that you like to have with you (NOT YOUR PHONE, unless you are watching a highlight reel)

Athletes are encouraged to walk around the arena/field before the game and pick out a few focal points in advance, so that when the heat is on and distractions are plenty, they can go right to those points and easily avoid the other distractions.

By picking specific targets to look at ahead of time and regularly using them, you’ll have a much easier time successfully staying calm and confident when it counts.

When it comes to your ears, there are two sources of possible distraction: outside sources and inner self-talk. SPEND AS LITTLE TIME AS POSSIBLE LISTENING TO THINGS THAT DRAIN YOUR CONFIDENCE. Instead, substitute positive or neutral sounds that will distract you from the negatives.

  • Listen to music that is set to your emotional intensity scale

  • Put headphones on without listening to music

  • Listen to a motivational dialog

  • Self-Talk 

    • positive process-oriented affirmations such as 

      • I am focused 

      • I will perform at my very best

      • This is going to be a great game

      • I’m going to have fun

    • think of a word or phrase that boosts your confidence (such as “confidence”) and repeat that over and over in your head.  

When it comes to your muscles, besides the obvious negative performance effects of feeling tight or sore, these are closely tied to your thoughts as well.  Note: If you really are hurt or have tight muscles, see the Trainer.  But if negative thoughts are causing you to feel tight, some actions to help with feeling looser and more relaxed include:

  • Stretching the muscles

  • Clenching the muscles for 3 seconds, then release them and notice the difference

  • Taking slow and deep breaths

  • Smiling

Controlling your senses is a strategy you can also apply during any breaks within the performance itself, so that you don’t lose your concentration and momentum during half-time or while you’re waiting for your turn to perform.

Try it and see what works best for you. Your routine might be different from another athlete so try a few different ones and see which results in the most effective means of keeping your concentration and performance optimal. 


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John Couture

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