ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: How to improve it in a competition.
Is your athletic performance same as when you train or when you compete? To most players it is not the same, but to same players, they perform the same, if not, better.
There are three situations that can happen during a competition:
- your performance increases during the competition,
- competition does not alter your performance,
- competition decreases your performance.
If you identify with one of the first two options, the competition is not a problem for your game. But if you think that you find yourself in the third option, for some reason, being in a situation of competition adversely affects your athletic performance.
A good performance is not equivalent to winning. Because you may lose a match but your performance could be brilliant. If you have gone through this situation or experience, you will remember that moment as a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, you experience anger that accompanied with the defeat, on the other hand, this anger is minimized by the knowledge that you tried your best. That you fought with your best intention and capacities and you were at your best at the match.
Many things can be responsible for the poor quality of your game during a match. But, I can assure you that your motor skill is not responsible for that.
What does motor skill mean?
With motor skill, I mean all the motor coordination that your body has to make in order to make a movement. This motor skill is what allows you to be able to hit the ball at the appropriate time and place.
The good news is that if you are able to do it during a practice session, you can repeat it at any time. By this I want to say that, you have incorporated the ability to get that performance, it already belongs to you. And this means that you have ahead much less work than you think.
But then, if you have the capacity incorporated … what is impeding you to use it in a game?
To begin, I would like to emphasize that every situation is different. Even if we compare two practice sessions, each session will be different, because the conditions are not repeated. You as a player, every day you find yourself emotionally and physically different. Your training partners or even your coach also experience these changes. The weather, the different surface of the court, if there are people watching or not, environmental noises, all these variables make every situation a unique experience.
A competition is a situation where the athlete perceives and experiences a big emotional charge. As a result of this emotional charge, the player experiences different symptoms. These symptoms can be mental such as: poor concentration, negative thoughts, fear, mistrust, irritability, etc. But they can also be physical type such as muscle tension, increased heart rate, sweating, cold, rapid breathing, loss of appetite, etc. If you have participated in any tournament, you would have experienced some of the sensations that I have just described.
These symptoms are part of a normal response of the body to the situation of any competition. All athletes (amateurs and elite) experience these symptoms. The difference is that for some, e.g. elite players, these feelings help them further improve their game. But instead, to others, these feelings may bring negative affect.
What is the difference? How do the elite players use this in their favor?
The key is the motivational orientation. What is that motivate you? If your motivation is focused on winning, beat the others, demonstrate superiority over others, this indicates that you have an orientation to your ego. And this kind of orientation often triggers high levels of anxiety that the player cannot control and therefore ends up hurting his own performance.
But, if, what motivates you is to improve yourself, to learn new skills then you feel successful when you perform that new skill during the match. This approach promotes self-confidence and with it a reduction of anxiety. Elite players have this kind of approach, they achieve low levels of anxiety that acts as promoters of their athletic performance.
The key question is: What is your motivation, ego or self-improvement?
A change in your focus of motivation can help you to improve your athletic performance in a competition. I recommend you to:
1- try to be honest with yourself to find your true motivation.
2- You can change the focus of motivation, if you want, this requires attention to how you feel during competition and training. A change of motivation that gives you a greater confidence requires that you focus on yourself. The evaluation that you need to do is self-referential, always you have to compare you with yourself, for example, did I play better than yesterday? Or Did I play better than a month ago? Do I have new skills? Am I able to do things that I wasn´t able to do before?
As you can see, self-confidence focuses on yourself, it focuses in the capabilities that you have to deal with different situations. This self-confidence is a powerful tool. The more you increase your self-confidence, the more power and control you have over the situation. But if you think that you are good only when you win… you are giving your power to the opponent.
Whom do you prefer to have the power, you or your opponent?
If you are interested in learning strategies to increase your self-esteem I recommend you read the following blog:
I will be delighted to receive your comments or questions: