Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Time for Change is NOW! By Lanny Bassham

If you are like most competitors you have been enjoying a well-needed rest from competition issues during the holidays. But, as the new season approaches some decisions might be in order. First, do you need to change anything; equipment, training schedule or mental game and when is the best time to do it? I submit that the best time is now. If you want to maximize your competition results for the coming year, now is the time to make that change. Here are a few tips to aid you in doing just that.

Begin by a careful evaluation of last year. You must first determine if you have anything that needs changing. This can be accomplished in multiple areas of concern such as equipment, skill, competitions or mental game so let's look at a couple of those.

Equipment is very sport-specific and since we have readers in a wide variety of sports and performance arenas I will hold off on recommendations for equipment change.

Let's look at skill a minute. Does your technical ability grow during the off-season or does it deteriorate? Well, again that depends on your level of experience and on your habits during this period. There is a training principle that says that we tend to forget what we do wrong faster than we forget what we do right. So, taking a short break might just help your skill. However this may be discounted if you are taking a long break and your competition is getting better during this period. How do you get better? Take a lesson from an instructor and practice, practice, practice. You should know what works for you and be honest about it.

How about evaluating the benefit of the competitions you attended last year? This is a relatively easy task if you have been keeping a performance journal during the year. Simply look at the entries you have recorded in your journal and the answers to this question will be answered. But, if you do not keep a journal you must rely on your memory and the longer you take to make decisions the greater the probability that you will benefit little from the attempt. It is not uncommon for competitors to mentally go on vacation after the final competition of the year and not to think too much about the next year until a few weeks prior to the first season's competition. That is way too late! Journal or not here are several questions you need to answer about last year. What competitions were a benefit to me and why and what competitions might I do well to avoid this year and why? Once this is done you can plan for the up-coming year with confidence.

Finally, let's look at your mental game as you prepare for the new season. Is your mental game a variable or a constant? There are a lot of variables in all sports and performance ranging from weather, to judging, to equipment, to other competitors but, your mental game should be a constant. When you change your mental game based on circumstances you are not controlling your mental game the circumstances are controlling you. If you do not have a defined mental thinking system for competition now is the time to develop one.

My suggestion is to try to remember what you were thinking about when you were performing well last year. Normally, performers find that they were not thinking too much at all. Some on the other hand find that they compete best when concentrating at a higher level of focus. You need to determine what works best for you. You cannot duplicate a thing until you have defined it. Once your mental game is defined your job is to run these thoughts every time, in every competition and in practice. When you run a defined mental system you can achieve mental consistency in competitions in spite of your environment. This part of the program is not so easy to implement. The environment is constantly pulling you to pay attention to it and to alter your thoughts based on it.

So, how is your preparation for the new season coming along? Do you need new equipment, a skill upgrade or a defined mental game? If you need to change some things now is definitely the time to do it.

By Lanny Bassham

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