Why do some athletes always seem to win while others struggle to perform up to their potential? We see that hours of hard training are logged by ambitious, committed athletes of both types so if it was only hard work that counted all of these athletes would be winners, and not just once, but over and over again. Unfortunately, it does not work that way.
Although you do have to be born with the right genes to become a World Champion, there are other controllable factors that can help you master winning performances.
Winners are sure of themselves, physically and socially bold, tough, unconventional and when we meet them we immediately feel they are special. It is not just their physical training but it seems there is a way of living and being that influences their behavior.
Asking winners how they felt and thought before and during the competition can give some insight into how to mentally train to win. Here are some important feelings I have heard athletes talk about after winning competitions:
• I felt I could win and focused well on what I had to do
• In my mental preparation I took myself through a perfect competition and blocked out thinking about disturbing factors
• I got very excited by being at a big competition or a competition being at home
• I was able to focus on the process without expectation of outcome and locked out distracting thoughts
• I was able to switch to “autopilot” (I got into the “zone”) during the competition and did not think about what I was doing
• I felt strong and aggressive which enabled me to give extra effort when it was needed
There is not much difference between the “winner” feeling for the first time winners and those who continue winning, but there is a big difference in what the repeat winner focused on in later competitions. Those who continue winning are able to concentrate the same way over and over again. They trust that they have the ability to win again and feel they are in control. They are able to switch on the “autopilot” or get in the “zone” again (at will.
Repeat winners, faced with increased pressure of expectations, maintain perspective and a sense of the pleasure of sport, and welcome and enjoy new challenges. They learn to identify things that are important and things that are not and form an internal system to handle challenges. They think more about the process of performing a perfect competition rather than results. Athletes who continue to win are able to turn away thoughts about high expectations and the pressure for results and concentrate on doing the job at hand.
Athletes who fail to continue winning focus differently than repeat winners They tend to focus more on others’ expectations or their own often unrealistic goals. Some just try too hard and think too much, becoming locked in their own thoughts and unable to switch to “autopilot”.
The most important factor in mastering winning performances is to love what you are doing. If there is no fun in your training it’s impossible to put up with the grind of daily work, setbacks and disappointments. If you are committed and motivated to perfect the technical and physical training for your sport you can also master mental training techniques which are absolutely necessary to win and continue winning.
Here are a few things that can help you prepare for a winning performance:
• Take control of your life and prioritize your time and what you do with it.
• Don’t neglect basic skills and fundamentals of your sport that lead to winning.
• Think over what is needed to win (good physical and mental preparation).
• Concentrate on your goals and the things you can control.
• Be truthful with yourself; you need to know why you win and why you lose.
• Believe in yourself; think positively and keep doing the things that work for you.
Learn to identify what things are important and what things are not so you can deal effectively with challenges and stress. For competition, be rested physically and mentally and block outside expectations and negative thoughts. Focusing on the training aspects of your preparation you can control will allow you to become as good as you have the potential to be.