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Staying Mentally Fit

Practice makes perfect, right? That’s what parents and coaches say and that’s good advice – but it extends beyond the physical aspect of sports.

Oftentimes it can be just as important to be mentally ready for a sport or activity as it is to be physically ready.

Here are a few tips on how athletes can get themselves mentally ready to compete.

1. Relax. That’s easier said than done as sports can be intense. But staying loose and relaxed in the hours and minutes before competition is one of the keys to being at our best. Listen to relaxing music, talk with friends and try not to think too much about the event. While it’s important to set goals and prepare for every event, the moments immediately before competition should be used to allow your head to become clear. Don’t dwell on your goals right before the game – you’ve already practiced and thought about this moment enough. Now it’s time to enjoy it.

2. Control the controllable. Focus on yourself and don’t worry about your opponent. You can only control what you are doing, not the opposition, the playing surface, the weather or the officials. So learn to direct your focus inward. The more you think about what your opponent is doing, the more nervous you’ll become and the less you’ll think about the fundamentals you’ve spent so much time practicing.

3. Stay in the now. Focus only on today’s competition. Don’t let your focus travel back to the last game, whether it was a good or bad performance. Similarly, don’t let yourself start to think about what happens if you win or lose this competition. Tomorrow is for tomorrow. There are times when you will lose that focus and find your mind straying – but try to catch yourself when you do and immediately bring that concentration back to the event at hand.

4. Think positive. Last minute doubts, nervousness and negative thoughts are normal before an event. Don’t panic if those kinds of thoughts pop into your head and don’t fight them. Accept them as normal but try to replace them with positive ones.

5. Have fun. You’re at your best when you’re enjoying the competition. While you need to take your training and completion seriously, if you’re TOO serious it can take all the fun out of it. When fund disappear it gets replaced with nervous tension. But when you’re having fun, you’re mentally and physically loose and relaxed.

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