You know the feeling. You are in the locker room, or watching your team warm up and they just don't have "it." They are flat, unfocused, and their "game face" is nowhere to be found. You KNOW they are going to underperform.
It's a helpless feeling as a coach and an all too common occurrence at all levels.
With this in mind, I thought I'd share some of my go-to tips for this from our newest training, The Psychology of Competition™: Coaches Certification Program. These strategies are extremely simple but they flat-out work! So instead of standing on the sideline, frustrated and watching your athletes waste another opportunity to compete at their best, you can now DO something.
Here are 3 of my favorite techniques to help teams and athletes get ready to compete:
1. Visualize Losing
If you've been following my philosophy, this one may come as a surprise... but stay with me. Often (but not always), athletes are unfocused against opponents that they perceive to be "inferior" to them (there are issues when they perceive the opponent to be "superior" than them too, but that's a totally different article). If athletes think they are going to win easily, their fight or flight response doesn't get activated and very few athletes will find their best performance when they don't perceive any risk. That being said, we've all been the situation where we lost (or almost lost) to an inferior opponent and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth as a competitor. So athletes need to be reminded that anything can happen. Visualizing this possibility can wake them up to the risk and activate their fight or flight response in a healthy way.
2. Increase Warm-Up Intensity In A Specific Way
I'm sure you've tried to get your athletes to hustle more or go harder in warm-up. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. In my experience, increases in intensity need to come by way of a very intense drill that is non-skill-specific. Think foot fire drills, short sprints, shadow boxing, fast bear crawls, or something that involves physical contact, etc. Again, this activates their fight or flight response.
3. Loud, Intense Music
Don't underestimate the power of something like rap music. It might not be your favorite music but the intensity and rhythm can get your athletes' minds to pick up speed. This is a real thing—the same reason you might like to listen to soft, slow music at night while you make dinner.
Having your athletes listen to the SAME song before competition serves as an audible cue to get their mind right to compete.
So there you have it! These tips are simple, but extremely effective in getting your athletes ready to compete at their best. I'd love to hear your thoughts about these tips or add any others that you've used by commenting below!
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