The competition simulation as a mental preparation tool
Do you remember your first competition?
Without a doubt, one of the most stressful experiences in the life of a young athlete, is his first journey as a competitor.
The fear of losing in front of teammates, coach, family and friends is a a big, mental obstacle, in the way of every athlete.
Over the years, I have encountered many of great and very talented practitioners, who completely dominate their teammates in training class, but underperform in competition, where the same teammates, they routinely best in sparrings, end up winning the gold medal.
Why is that?
The body is controlled by the mind. And if our mind is not conditioned, then the body will not perform at its best.
Remember the famous quote “You can’t teach heart” proverb? It’s incorrect!
Of course you can!
You need to set goal posts, create a roadmap, follow through, and go hand in hand with your students, to help them reach their maximum potential.
Competition simulation is one of the tools we can use for this purpose.
Setup is simple:
- Get a timer, scoreboard, referees in uniforms, a whistle, and everything else, that resembles the competition environment.
- Run a small, inhouse tournament, or even just sparrings, with scores, ref calls (sometimes, intentionally wrong ones).
- Only one pair allowed on the mat, while everyone else is watching and cheering BOTH of the athletes. Advanced option would include the competitor’s family members, friends, partners and etc…
Here is an example of such setup, I used yesterday, just a week ahead of the upcoming Sambo/ Combat Wrestling tournament VARNA OPEN 2022:
Take notes of ALL of the participating students behaviour, and address existing issues afterwards.
It is very likely to observe some extreme reactions (a few of the kids in the video cried, a teen left the mat angry, and even tried to leave the gym, and etc.), which is the whole point of the drill: Step by step, preparing the new competitors for their first “stage appearance”.
If needed, the coach can use the help of a sports psychologist, for better understanding and communication with the athletes, dealing with the “fear of losing” complex, before and after their first tournament.