Competition Planning

Rowden Fullen (2003)

By planning beforehand you will often have a more stable performance. Use physical, technical, tactical and mental resources to best effect. Also have a reserve plan in case of unexpected problems.

Phase 1

Preparation.
Reserve plan for preparation.

Phase 2

Warming up.
Reserve plan for warming up.

Physically/focusing.
Mentally/focusing.

Phase 3

Execution.
Reserve plan for execution.

Phase 4

Evaluation.

Preparation is based on routines used before which have proved to work well — use a checklist, have all equipment with you, sleep early the night before, get up in good time, eat well (know what and when), take food and drink with you, know the programme, how you will travel etc. Relax and focus on the positive (but don’t focus strongly on the tournament too early).

Warm up in a positive manner and learn to banish negative thinking and mind pictures of the wrong kind. This will mean that you will have a bigger concentration capacity to direct towards more relevant factors and that the body is less stressed. Warm up in three stages, physical, mental and focusing (means that you are in a state where you feel sure in yourself and sure about what you have to do). Have your concentration directed towards the tournament so that you have the right arousal level and the right thoughts and feelings.

Physical — General and specific warm-ups — so that the body is ready for the demands of the tournament.

Mental — Positive self-suggestion and visualization — carry on the inner dialogue, how well you have trained, what good form you are in etc.

PHYSICAL

  • Free and easy
  • relaxed
  • balanced
  • strong
  • energetic
  • light
  • flexible

MENTAL

  • controlled
  • sure
  • calm
  • clear
  • concentrated
  • focused

Adjustment of tension levels — To psyche yourself up use the inner dialogue – ‘I am ready, prepared to succeed, I shall give everything’. Even shout it out aloud! To sink the tension levels, use slow, deep breathing, visualize your best performances, see yourself moving easily and playing in a relaxed fashion. Remind yourself that you have played well before and can again. Try to concentrate on the maximum release of ability — focus on this and believe that nothing can distract you.

Execution — To maintain concentration levels for a long time it pays to break up the tournament into small parts and also to be very much aware that the levels will be very different in differing phases of the competition. Concentration is particularly important when you start to tire. Often in fact you will have less anxiety (and tests have proved this) when you direct your concentration away from the problem at hand to something else.

Strong focus on technique and how you will carry out different movements is usually counter-productive and negative in a competitive situation. Technique should be automated, conditioned, so you are ‘switched-off’. Endeavour to concentrate on this ‘passive’ mode and let the body take over, it knows best. Try to have the right ‘feeling’. When problems arise avoid wasting energy in being irritated. Don’t worry over factors that you can’t control. Control your own actions and thoughts. Too often we concern ourselves over much with what the opponent is doing and how good he or she appears to be!

Ability/skill during competition — Focus on skill proficiency goals. Results are a product of how well you perform the different parts of the whole match. You also need of course the desire, the will to win. It’s often a good idea to have more than one reserve plan — you should for example know what you will do in differing situations and avoid having to make off-the-cuff decisions during competition, or last minute changes. Think of the various things that could come up to distract you and visualize how you would go about solving these. In this way you build up reserve plans to deal with the actual situation when it arises. The aim is to take control over your surroundings so that you are not caught out in the situation of having to improvise at the last minute.

Evaluation — See bad results in a positive light; you have the opportunity to learn and progress — without adversity few get to the top, adversity tempers the mind and makes you stronger. Ask yourself — ‘What went well? What could go better?’ Often you may want to change your training plan after a big tournament. But always test new things for a reasonable time and give them a fair chance to work. Don’t follow plans slavishly, there must always be room for manoeuvre.

TIME SCALE.

The week before the tournament — How are you training and what are you thinking about during the last week before the competition? How long ago did you start to prepare and how are you doing this?

Tournament day

How do you feel? What are you saying to yourself when you begin with physical and mental warm-ups? How strong is your feeling of control? How sure are you of yourself, what are you concentrating on, are you happy and alive? What is your anxiety level? Are your feelings changing as the day moves on?

Performance phase

What are you concentrating on? Are you having inner dialogue — key words, reminders? What is the result? Are you controlling the tension level — does it need to be higher or lower? Can you relax without losing tension and arousal levels?

During breaks/pauses

What are you thinking of, what are you doing? Are you changing anything?

Afterwards

Understand which factors lead to weak and strong performance, it is important that you recognize them for the future. Every individual training session takes you nearer to your goal.

Experts say it takes between 1/3 years to develop a training plan which gives stable performance at a high level. As a goal have a competition plan to achieve automatic actions which relieve you of the need for conscious thought. The central theme of any mental programme is that it must be regular, systematic and goal-oriented. The best time to start a programme is just before a new season and let it grow with the season (the least suitable is mid-season or just before a big competition; if you must start mid-season, work at strengthening areas where you are already good). Just the same as in technical areas a mental programme should be automated before use in competition. It is also vital that you view the mental programme as being both on-going and an integral part of your whole training set-up.