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The Game Plan

There are a number of issues that athletes have to overcome if they are going to perform at their peak consistently. Some of the most common issues include performing under pressure, building self-confidence, pushing through pain, and staying in the moment.

Something that the Mental Notes Consulting team talks to a lot of people about is the fact that each mental skill or tool we use can be used to deal with more than one issue.

One of the great things about the mental game is that one skill can be used in different ways to deal with any number of issues, if you have a good understanding of the skill. For example, goal-setting is a very common skill and is most often related to motivation. But if you know how to set goals effectively you will know that goals are excellent for focus and confidence as well.

Performance plans are an excellent tool to handle a number of issues that athletes in all different sports will face during competition. Having a performance plan is a simple but effective way to deal with pressure, to have confidence, and to push through the tough aspects of a competition.

Let’s look at some examples of using performance plans in different sports..

In golf, we use course plans to make sure that decision-making processes are well thought out and not simply reactions to emotion. We also use course plans in golf to stay focused on the right thing at the right time. It is very easy to get caught up on thinking about scores whilst playing golf, so being able to have a plan to come back to helps to keep golfer grounded and focused on one shot at a time.

In swimming, we use race plans to handle pressure. When swimmers spend all year training and preparing for a handful of important races there is a lot of pressure to perform with minimal second chances. It’s easy for swimmers to get caught up with thoughts of how important the race is as well as doubts about achieving their goals. Having a race plan to come back to decreases self-doubt and occupies the mind of the swimmer with a positive focus.

In triathlon, race plans are useful for both of the reasons discussed above but we have also found them useful for getting through pain and pushing the body to new levels. Triathletes find that having a plan is something concrete that they can stick to no matter what their body is telling them.  A race plan helps triathletes have something to work to and commit to when their bodies are hurting. Having an external focus (i.e., a race plan) keeps a triathlete’s thoughts away from themselves, their bodies, and the pain.

In a sport like rugby, a game plan provides a team with a single goal so that each player knows and understands their role and not as many resources are wasted compared to the team who doesn’t have a clear plan. On an individual level having a game plan helps players have a focus outside of themselves, which helps them deal with poor performance, mistakes, and missed opportunities.

So, whatever name you give to the performance plans in your sport, you can see how important they are to include in your competitive performance. There is no elite athlete performing at their peak who doesn’t use a performance plan. Using performance plans help athletes focus on the right things at the right times, manage pressure and nerves, and handle all the little setbacks that sport throws at them.

Mental Notes Consulting has consultants throughout South East Queensland who can work with you to help maximise your performance and reach your potential by helping you create and stick to performance plans.

Matt Ahlberg | Sport & Exercise Psychologist MAPS