How to Perform Better in Competition

You don't want to just be a practice player. That's why it's important for you to learn how to play better in competition. Learn a strategy you can use to play better during games!

No athlete wants to be a practice player. But so many athletes find themselves performing well in practice but not in games.

If this is you, what can you do?

In this article, you’re going to learn a mental game strategy you can use to perform better in competition. So you can finally be that game-time player you know you can be.

What it Takes to Play Your Best in Games

To get yourself to a point where you’re performing well in games, you need to be highly skilled. There is no shortcut for mastering the fundamentals of your sport.

Every high-level performer does the little things well. Their skills are finely tuned. So you need to make sure yours are as well.

But I’m going to guess you have pretty good physical skills. This is especially true if you do find that there’s a difference between your practice and game play.

If you’re doing well in practices and others (especially your coaches) tell you you’re highly skilled, then it’s unlikely your talent is to blame.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your physical skills. What it does mean, however, is that you don’t need to spend hours overanalyzing your mechanics.

What you need to do is to turn your focus onto your mindset. There are likely mental blocks that are keeping you from performing well in competition. Mental blocks and challenges are the main reasons athletes underperform in games.

What you want to do is be sure your mind is helping you play your best in games. Not continually holding you back!

As a mental performance coach there are three key elements I focus on to help athletes perform better during games. These include…

  • Physical Preparation: making sure you are as prepared as you can be in terms of your physical skills.
  • Mental Preparation: making sure you are as prepared as you can be mentally for the game.
  • Getting into the Right Mindset: making sure you are in the best mindset to compete that day.

These three elements make up the perfect recipe for success as an athlete.

Now, physical preparation is going to vary depending on your sport. So I’m going to leave that element up to you. What we’re going to focus on are the other two: mental preparation and getting into the right mindset to compete.

Mental Game Strategy to Perform Better in Competition

This strategy is broken down into two parts. The first part involves tools you can use to mentally prepare for competition.

The second part includes a way you can make sure you get into the right mindset to compete.

Focusing on these two parts of the strategy, combined with continuing to improve and fine tune your physical skills, is the best way for you to perform better during games.

Mentally Preparing for Competition

To help think about how you can mentally prepare for a game, I want you to think about how you physically prepare. What do you do?

You go to practice. You spend time in the weight room. You train on your own.

All of this is done to ensure your skills are as good as they can be come game time. Your physical skills, that is.

How can the same idea apply to mental skills?

Well, just like you work on your physical skills, you want to be sure you are working on your mental skills.

Now there are many different mental training tools you can use. But I always like to keep things simple. So, we’re just going to cover two. Two of my favorite tools I use with the athletes I work with.

These tools have been proven to increase focus, improve confidence, build mental toughness, and reduce fear and anxiety. The two tools I’m talking about are visualization and mindfulness meditation.

Visualization for Mental Preparation

Visualization is also known as mental rehearsal. It’s a way for you to rehearse your skills in your mind.

By visualizing, you can increase confidence, reduce pressure, and decrease fear and anxiety.

With visualization, you want to make it a consistent part of your routine. This means performing your mental rehearsal at least a few times a week.

There are many ways you can use visualization to mentally prepare for games. Here are the top visualization techniques you can use as an athlete.

The more you visualize, the more confident you will be when you compete. And the more confident you are, the better you will perform in competitions.

Mindfulness Meditation for Mental Preparation

The other mental training tool you can use is mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness helps improve focus, reduce fear and anxiety, and helps you stay more present while you compete. Mindfulness also helps you compete with a calm mind.

Just like with visualization, mindfulness meditation benefits from consistency. To make the most of the practice, you want to perform mindfulness each day.

The best thing about mindfulness training is that it doesn’t need to take long. Five to ten minutes a day is all you need to see incredible benefits in your game.

Here’s how you can start your own mindfulness meditation practice as an athlete.

Getting into the Right Mindset to Compete

There are differences and similarities between the mindsets athletes need to perform their best in competition.

The similarities are the core principles that make up a good performing mindset. The differences are what you think about and what state you’re in that helps you get there.

What we’re going to cover first are the core principles you need for a strong competitive mindset. Then we’ll talk about what you can use to get there.

Core Principles to a Performing Mindset

When you think about performing your best, does the word flow come to mind? What about the phrase, I was in the zone?

Both of those describe the state athletes typically say they’re in when performing their best.

Now, when you’re in the flow state or performing in the zone, what’s happening? For the most part, you are present, fully focused, and most likely not aware of your thinking. In short – you are just playing.

That begins to show us the core principles that make up a strong competing mindset.

You want to be fully present, meaning you aren’t worried about the past or future. You are focused on what you’re doing. And you aren’t thinking too much.

I always talk to the athletes I work with about how practice is the time for thinking. It’s the time to analyze your mechanics and think consciously about things.

Because it’s during practice that you build muscle memory. During games, you want that muscle memory to take over.

That’s what it means to say you’re just playing.

There’s not a whole lot of analyzing. You’re not thinking about what’s going to happen. You are present and simply performing. Allowing your body to do what you’ve trained it to do.

How you get into that state is where the differences come into play.

Knowing Your Peak Mindset

You know that the goal is to get to the state where you’re not thinking and you’re just playing. That’s the best mindset for you to have that will help you perform better in competition.

But the next question is, how do you get to that point?

Well, here’s the frustrating part…you can’t force it. By trying to force it you will only keep yourself from performing well.

Getting into the zone or the flow state must happen on its own. But what you can do is influence it by the way you think and the mental state you work to get into for a game.

This is where identifying your peak performance mindset comes into play. Because once you have that outlined, then you can focus on getting into that mindset before a game.

By getting into your peak mindset, you put yourself closer to being in the flow state and just playing.

Here’s how to outline your peak mindset for competing:

  • List out your previous three worst performances. Are there any similarities between them?
  • List out your previous three best performances. What are the similarities between these?
  • Now come up with a single statement describing your mindset when performing your best.

Here are a few examples from some of the athletes I’ve worked with:

  • Trusting myself, having fun, and being relaxed.
  • Being focused in the present and taking it one shot at a time.
  • Feeling like I have something to prove.

You want to outline your peak mindset statement, then focus on that going into a game. By doing so, that will help you perform better in competition because you are approaching each game with a better mindset.

Final Thoughts

You don’t want to just be a practice player. That’s why it’s important for you to learn how to play better in competition. Because it’s games that count.

To play better in games you want to focus on the three elements that make up a good performance: being physically prepared, being mentally prepared, and getting into the right mindset.

You’re already taking care of the physical preparation on your own. Now you want to make sure you add mental preparation. To do so, start making use of visualization and mindfulness meditation on a consistent basis.

The third element is getting into the right mindset. To do so, you need to outline your peak performance mindset.

By focusing on these three elements, you can work to perform betting in competition. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

Mental Training Courses

Learn more about our two main mental training courses for athletes: Mental Training Advantage and The Mentally Tough Kid.

The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

In Mental Training Advantage, you will learn tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage expectations & pressure, increase motivation, and build mental toughness. It’s time to take control of your mindset and unlock your full athletic potential!

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Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!