Mental preparation can be used to help athletes get in the right frame of mind for optimum performance to help manage stress and anxiety when performing under high pressure situations.
I interviewed Finn Healy ( a 16 year old equestrian athlete who is the double European Pony eventing champion of 2019 and has many other amazing achievements). I discussed his use of mental preparation and which methods he finds effective to calm his nerves.
Many athletes suffer from anxiety and stress before competitions. Finn agreed and commented: 'It really depends on the level of the event, however when it's an important one or a higher level that I have previously competed at I would say that I do get a bit anxious.'
There are many different mental preparation techniques that you can use before competitions to calm your nerves and anxiety. One method is self-talk. Performers practise and use positive self-talk, especially when they are learning new skills or are in challenging situations during a performance. For example: "I can run faster" and "I will score this goal".
Another mental preparation method that can be used to calm down nerves is imagery. This is where the performer imagines themselves being successful in the performance. For example, this could be a sprinter visualising themselves winning the race.
Selective attention is another mental preparation technique. Selective attention is a method where the performer focuses their concentration and ignores other distractions.
In my interview I asked Finn which mental preparation methods he used. He replied: 'I do use imagery when I feel nervous or unsure and the same goes for self talk. If I ever feel nervous or anxious I try to talk to myself up to give me confidence'. He also described 'At the big events or if I'm about to compete in a high pressure competition or atmosphere I tend to try and take a couple of quiet minutes and imagine myself jumping the round and just taking some deep breathes if I feel nervous.'
Finn advises other athletes to 'Tell yourself you are good enough over and over again even if it might not be true- always believe in your ability. Try to forget about why you might be nervous and focus on small parts of what you need to do to be successful in whatever sport you're in. Break the whole task down into little goals' .
Mental preparation is used by many athletes to improve their performance. It is often done just before performance as it mainly helps improve concentration and increases confidence. Mental preparation can have a great impact on performance as it motivates the athlete and psyches them up. Finn Healy agreed that mental preparation improves his performance. He stated 'Absolutely. They can have such a big impact on your performance as it puts you in the right state of mind to compete at your best. '